The Northern Premier League

16th July 2022, Stockport Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 2-2

Runcorn Linnets opened their 2022-23 pre-season campaign with a hard-earned 2-2 draw.

Hosts Stockport Sports, playing two divisions below Linnets in the National League System, gave a very good account of themselves on the 4G surface at Stockport Sports Village.

The visitors, however, will be happy enough with their afternoon's work considering this was a first runout, the game being played in soaring temperatures.

With manager Dave Wild having been busy in his transfer dealings, it was a strong Linnets line-up which took the field - just the one triallist featuring in a squad containing a fair few unfamiliar faces.

Absentees included the new manager himself plus midfielder Louis Hayes, who had picked up an injury in the week, vice-captain Sean O'Mahony and winger James Ellison.

Player/assistant boss Jamie Rainford took charge of the side but did not feature on the teamsheet.

This was the first look at Runcorn's restyled defensive unit, based around three centre backs, although in the absence of O'Mahony the system was abandoned in favour of a back four when Tom Moore (Linnets' new signing from Connah's Quay Nomads) was forced to withdraw after taking a knock.

There were inevitably moments of shakiness with a new goalkeeper and unfamiliar back three (also including ex-West Didsbury skipper Sam Heathcote and the triallist, Dan Thornton) linking up for the first time.

But Daryll Grant, a recruit from Abbey Hey, was full of energy on the right be it as a wing back or full back while skipper James Short seemed to enjoy the extra freedom of a more attacking brief on the left.

Sidi Sonogo, starting alongside Jacques Welsh in central midfield, looked strong on his first appearance since signing from North West Counties League Premier Division champions, Macclesfield.

Understandably, the pace of the game suffered late on because of fatigue in the heat.

But Ben Halfacre, starting his second spell with Linnets and former Nottingham Forest professional Nialle Rodney showed signs of forging an attacking partnership.

With both goalkeepers, including Runcorn's former Wrexham custodian Andy Coughlin, making good saves and the teams leading in turn, the draw was just.

Honours were even at the end of each half.

Stockport Town took the lead when an attempted Coughlin clearance struck prolific ex-1874 striker Scott McGowan and went in.

Linnets levelled with a goal for Halfacre after Rodney had rounded the home 'keeper to find the impressive Eden Gumbs, who in turn set up the scorer.

Half-time substitutions had the desired effect almost immediately as two of the replacements combined to put Linnets in front.

Dapo Olarewaju's fast feet opened the way for Rhain Hellawell to signal his return after an injury-hit end to last season with a good finish.

It could so easily have been 3-1 but for an excellent save by the Stockport 'keeper from Stuart Crilly.

Crilly, another to have been injury-hampered late last term, joined Ally Brown and Lewis Doyle in getting some mileage in their legs.

Linnets Under 21s striker Adam Moseley, who has also been starring for the club's successful ESPFA Academy team, was also introduced for a senior debut.

The son of former Runcorn AFC and Witton Albion striker Mike, Adam came within inches of scoring a memorable goal. His shot only just cleared the bar.

This meant Stockport's leveller, Dan McLaughlin scoring, earned the NWC Division One side a share of the spoils, which on balance was well-deserved.

But for both sides, the most important factor was preparation for their forthcoming campaigns and, in that regard, neither will be complaining.

Runcorn Linnets: Andy Coughlin Daryll Grant, Tom Moore, Dan Thornton, Sam Heathcote James Short, Sidi Sanogo, Jacques Welsh, Eden Gumbs, Ben Halfacre, Nialle Rodney. Subs (all used) Stuart Crilly, Rhain Hellawell, Adam Moseley, Ally Brown, Dapo Olarewaju, Lewis Doyle.



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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