The Northern Premier League

11th December 2021, Runcorn Linnets FC v Glossop North End : 1-1 Sponsored by Grangeside of Runcorn

Report by David 'Bill' Davies

Linnets hosted Glossop North End in the Pitching In Northern Premier League West Division after suffering two weekends of inactivity, thanks to weather-blighted away fixtures at Market Drayton and Colne.

The lay-off was a mixed blessing. While it bought some time for injured squad members to progress towards fitness, it did leave the men in yellow and green looking considerably less sharp than in their impressive 2-0 win over Warrington Rylands three weeks earlier.

Two debutants started, in the shape of attacking midfielder James Steele, most recently of Widnes, and young Manchester United goalkeeper Dermot Mee.

The latter came in on loan for the injured Joe Young, and he was to stake a strong claim to be Linnets'second consecutive man of the match wearing gloves.

The game started scrappily, and largely stayed that way, but there was early home excitement inside two minutes.

Ryan Brooke's pass from the right gave James Steele the chance to score with his very first touch in a Linnets shirt, but it bounced away from him before he could get in a shot.

Brooke and Dapo Olarewaju, with the support of Ally Brown, were causing early trouble for Glossop from the right-hand side, but blanket defending kept them in check.

The first meaningful Glossop attack came in the eighth minute, when Keaton Mulvey was set free into the left half of the Runcorn area, but Dermot Mee was out quickly to make the first in what would prove to be a series of crucial saves.

Two minutes later, he caught a dangerous high cross under pressure.

North End continued their first spell of pressure, and Keaton had another chance when a long ball reached him in enough space to shoot, but it flew high.

Linnets took the initiative for a while from around the quarter-hour mark, with Dapo involved in every threat.

He was fouled on the halfway line when a Downes pass out of defence set him away, and then picked up a clever flick-on from Ryan Brooke after Ally Brown's long through ball, but was caught offside.

Openings remained scarce, and despite the labours of Brooke, Iwan Murray and Lewis Doyle, more than three passes in a row by either side were rare.

Glossop efforts to get forward with menace were largely long-ball, apart from a number of charges with the ball by Sekuba Sanogo.

He wore the No 3 blue shirt, but was playing as more of a Murray-style probing midfielder.

All of those efforts met stout resistance in the middle from Alex Downes and birthday boy Sean O'Mahony, or were grabbed with confidence by Mee.

On 20 minutes, ex-Linnet Jamie Rainford saw his first real chance for a productive return to Murdishaw when a through ball set him free into the penalty area, but a great saving tackle by Downes denied him.

Linnets returned to the attack, but fruitlessly again, as Ally Brown's low shot was saved at the foot of a post, and a swift turn and shot by Steele was blocked at close quarters by Mark Haslam.

Ryan Brooke headed goalwards from a Brown cross, but straight at 'keeper Harry Allen.

The stodginess of the game was reflected by its first corner coming in the 27th minute, conceded by a Brown block of Luke Nock's cross.

Ally tried to clear it from the near post, his fresh air shot not proving costly asthe ball evaded everyone else in the penalty area.

Sanogo's long-range shot flew well wide, then a GNE free-kick from the centre circle was headed over the bar by Coker, but he was judged to have fouled anyway.

A Glossop free-kick from deep was then caught easily by Mee.

The first Linnets chance for a while came from a free-kick on the right, after Coker was deemed to have fouled Brooke, in what looked like a firm but fair tackle.

Brooke's header was tipped over the bar, but referee Matt Archibald awarded a goal-kick.

Both defences continued to have more joy than either attack, and at half-time it was no easy task to recall a serious scoring opportunity for either side.

Before the restart, Joe Lynch replaced Stuart Crilly for Linnets.

It had been a notable feature of the game so far that few if any crosses had been delivered into the area by either side, and with that being such a prominent aspect of ten Runcorn league victories to date, deliveries from wide appeared to be the way forward.

In the event, it was the visitors who began to find more joy from the flanks, while they continued to limit Runcorn progress from similar territory.

The ball began to find its way into the Linnets penalty area far more, and Dermot Mee became the home team's most valuable player.

A Rainford shot was deflected for a corner, which was smothered by Mee before Rainford could pounce again, and then another shot from a long ball into the area was gatherd by the Linnets 'keeper.

Peter Wylie found James Steele wide left, his cross flying long beyond the far post, and then Brooke was fouled when competing in the air for Downes' long ball through the middle.

Iwan Murray's 35-yard free-kick reached O'Mahony inside the penalty area, but his header flew wide of the left post.

The hour mark was approaching when the game saw its first Linnets corner, showing just how little activity had come from either wing.

It came from Steele's shot being blocked after Murray had beaten two men before passing forwards into the area.

Murray's corner kick cleared everyone, and ran wide.

It remained difficult to remember a sequence of more than three consecutive touches by either side.

With half an hour to go, the highest number among the match statistics must surely have been the throw-in count.

After a Brooke header from Murray's free-kick had been cut out by the challenge of Sam Barrett, Calum McIntyre tried to shake things up by swapping Lloyd Marsh-Hughes for debutant James Steele.

But it was the visitors, who embarked on the most threatening attacking spell of the game.

Rainford looked certain to break the deadlock, when Downes' back-tracking tackle missed its target and left the Glossop No9 with the goal at his mercy.

The Linnets pitch could never claim to be the most productive hunting ground of Jamie's career, but it seemed more charitable to applaud Dermot Mee for a great point-blank save.

Moments later, Sidi Sanogo-Fofana's cross from the right fed a Mulvey shot that was saved by Mee, but Sekuba Sanogo had the simplest of tap-ins to open the scoring. It had been coming.

Two minutes later, it should have been 2-0, when another cross from the right enabled a Luke Nock shot from ten yards out, but a great stop by Mee cemented an excellent debut.

Without that save, fifty per cent of Glossop North End's league victories, and half of Runcorn Linnets' league defeats, would surely and bizarrely have come from the two games between the two sides.

Going behind injected some urgency into Linnets' efforts. Brooke and Lynch battled their way into the Glossop penalty area, swapping passes under intense pressure, to allow Olarewaju an attempt at goal, but he was flagged offside.

The wings remained under-utilised, and attempts to get back on terms were concentrated on long-ball tactics that thankfully have never been the Linnets way.

The Hillmen of Glossop were also getting forward fast, but on the ground, and it continued to provide a threat.

It was perhaps no coincidence that Linnets were to save the day by playing on the deck, when Dapo advanced 25 yards into the right side of the Glossop area with the ball at his feet, before being brought down from behind.

In a post-match interview, Glossop scorer Sanogo insisted that Linnets' best outfield player on the day hadn't been touched. But it spoke volumes that Mr Archibald pointed to the spot before Dapo hit the ground.

Joe Lynch struck low with composure to level the score.

Fifteen minutes remained, but it was the kind of game where two goals had exceeded expectations, and a handful of further chances either way provided more bluster than true excitement.

Lewis Doyle collected a yellow card for a foul on Haslam 40 yards from goal, the free-kick headed clear by Downes.

Olarewaju was upended just outside the area, Murray's free-kick drawing Allen's best save of the day, and there were appeals for a penalty when Downes followed up and was checked by the 'keeper.

The referee shook his head, and Linnets fans would have agreed with him if the same had happened at the other end of the pitch.

In the final minute, Linnets' ball player of the day Dapo covered 50 yards with it to reach the left edge of the penalty area, before Sam Barrett intervened and slammed the ball out of the ground.

The final whistle heralded GNE taking four of only 18 points this season from Runcorn Linnets.

The home side's points haul of 33 suggests they had just dropped two, but it might be more realistic to recognise that Glossop had extended their unbeaten run to seven matches.

Honours even from this one was the least they deserved.

The gate of 445 was highly respectable, on a soggy penultimate Saturday before Christmas, but regulars who couldn't make it would have been consoled by the fact that what they had missed was also decidedly soggy.

That had been a rarity, in a stirring first half of Linnets'season.

Travelling fans will be hoping for a return to enterprising form in Tuesday night's away trip to Crosby, to face league leaders Marine.

Runcorn Linnets: Dermot Mee, Ally Brown, Peter Wylie, Lewis Doyle, Alex Downes, Sean O'Mahony, Dapo Olarewaju, James Steele (Lloyd Marsh-Hughes 62), Ryan Brooke, Iwan Murray, Stuart Crilly (Joe Lynch 45). Subs not used: Joe Young, Rhain Hellawell, MJ Monaghan.

Attendance: 445.

NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.

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