In what was billed as a key fixture in the North West Counties Premier Division title race, Runcorn Linnets backed by their fanatical following produced with one of the strongest away performances seen at Alder House in recent seasons.
Michael Clegg made four changes to the Colls team for this top of the table encounter, with Matty Grimshaw, Nathan Battersby, Brad Cooke & Mark Battersby all making returns to the side.
The game was a physical affair, with the first free kick being given within seconds of the kick-off. Linnets took control within the early stages, with the first clear cut chances for both sides coming just after the 20 minute mark. Runcorn winger Mark Houghton fired a swerving volley from the edge of the box, which ultimately flew a few feet wide of the Atherton goal, shortly followed by a great save by Yellows’ stopper Dean Porter to prevent Jordan Cover from scoring from close range.
Within their next attack, the visitors were awarded a penalty. No real complaints by the Colls collective. It was calmly finished to right of Danny Taberner by Linnets’ centre half Michael White who bagged his customary goal from the penalty spot at Alder House.
Chances for the next spell of the match were often limited to free-kicks and corners, with players on both sides making some very passionate tackles. Unfortunately, Danny Taberner picked up an injury whilst clearing a Linnets attack, causing a brief stoppage in play before being replaced by Matt Grimshaw, who became the second outfield player to have a stint in the Colls goal in recent weeks.
Runcorn took this one-goal advantage into the second half, however this was threatened by a rejuvenated Atherton side soon after the resumption. Dean Porter definitely had his influence on the match in the visitors goal, saving another tough one-on-one chance soon into the second half, this time to deny Mark Battersby. Keen to get in on the action, Matty Grimshaw soon produced a great one-on-one save of his own, denying a volley from Michael White.
Colls were soon punished for failing to capitalise on this early pressure, through experienced striker Anthony Hickey, who headed home a floated cross to give the Linnets a second with just over 20 minutes remaining.
This second goal gave the visitors a stranglehold on the match from which Atherton couldn’t really recover. The best Colls chance came in injury time when the ball bobbled around the Linnets box like a game of bagatelle before James Kirby applied the final touch which just cleared the bar. It was the story of the black n white stripes night.
The game ended Runcorn leaving with an important three points in front of a bumper crowd of 570. Fine margins maybe but the Linnets had achieved what they set out to do as they home in on that elusive NWCFL Premier Division title.
Next up for the Colls is the visit of Linnets’ neighbours from Weston Point, Runcorn Town, on Saturday in a 3pm kick-off at Alder House. As always, your support will be greatly appreciated in what is set to be another exciting match.
Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Jake Kenny, Nathan Battersby, Josh Messer, Matt Grimshaw, Callum Jones, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, Jordan Cover, Gareth Peet – Substitutes: Dave Sherlock, James Kirby, Lewis Coleman, Mark Truffas, Jonathan Hurst
Match Report by Rob Clarke