Runcorn Linnets are a club who have established themselves amongst the Colls most formidable opponents over recent years. In the 2015-16 season, the Linnets finished a solitary place above the Colls in a campaign that saw a historic James Kirby hattrick at the Linnet’s Millbank home, before the Linnets went on to record the double over the Black and Whites en-route to our title the following year. It was no surprise, if not an inevitability, that we would be locking horns once again this season, this time amongst the esteemed company of the Northern Premier League. A key factor for both club’s progress is the strong levels of team spirit amongst the two squads, evident in the fact that 10 players from the September 2015 clash were still amongst the squads this weekend. No prize for the first to name them all.
The first half was very much a stalemate, with every black and white attack matched by one in green and yellow. The first chance worth talking about came to Jordan Cover, who rounded Linnets’ stopper Dylan Forth before attempting to tap home, only for Aaron Morris to successfully track back and clear the effort.
Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger is most well known for coining a thought experiment involving a situation in-which it becomes unknown whether a cat is alive or dead. Over recent weeks here at the Skuna Stadium, we have come to learn that the same principles apply to our southernmost goalmouth, as for the second time in three matches the half-time discussion became whether or not the ball had crossed its line.
Luckily for the Alder House Cat Hotel, the linesman’s flag was not raised on this occasion, correctly ruling the ball had not crossed the line from a 40th minute Jordan Cover effort. Ben Conway broke down the left for the Collieries, beating defending Michael Simpson to play a perfect cross to the far post, only for Cover’s shot to again be blocked within the mouth of the goal, this time by the back-tracking Dylan Forth, ensuring that the first half was to end goalless.
Though clear-cut chances were few and far between, the first half was positive & entertaining, with both sides happy to give and take a challenge, living up to the tough, combative and enjoyable nature of our recent encounters.
For the purists however, the second half was happier to oblige on the goals front, opening with three goals in the first ten minutes. Colls midfielder Vinny Bailey did the honours of commencing the scoring, firing home from 12 yards following some great wide play by Ben Hardcastle to create the chance.
Within 6 minutes, the visitors had equalised. Despite being crowded by three surrounding Colls players, Freddie Potter managed to fire a low testing effort at Collieries’ stopper Dale Latham, who was unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a late bobble as the ball found the bottom left corner of his goal.
Moments later, the next opportunity fell to the Collieries. Recycling a cleared corner, Ben Conway’s perfect cross found the imperious Matt Grimshaw, who beat his marker to fire a header home with ease. The lead for the black and whites was restored.
Key chances to kill the game off were prompt to arrive. Ben Hardcastle was quick to intercept a misplaced pass following the restart, managing to fire a shot away following some quick interpassing. Michael Simpson cleared this effort out for a corner, from which Dave Sherlock was unlucky not to convert a Ben Conway header. This was shortly followed by a chance for Jordan Cover, who tapped wide following a quick Hardcastle break.
The next opportunity to kill the game came through Yellows’ defender Aaron Morris, conceding a penalty for an overzealous challenge on Ben Hardcastle after 82 minutes of play. Ben stepped up for the spot kick, only to see his powerful effort saved by Dylan Forth, who was enjoying a fine game for the visitors.
Within seconds, Hardcastle had made up for the miss, regaining possession and putting the Collieries on the front foot yet again. His shot from the culminating attack was saved by Forth, only for Danny Lambert to produce a wonder-header to loop the ball home from the rebound. 3-1 to the Collieries.
Though there were just five minutes to play, there was still enough time for a late Runcorn resurgence. Leading the charge was substitute Connor McCarthy, who produced an incredible goal from 25 yards, finding the top corner with a perfection that even Andrea Pirlo would be proud of.
The final moments can only be described as squeaky bum time for the Collieries. With newfound impetus and momentum, the Linnets forced a late sequence of corners and long throws as they looked for a smash and grab equaliser, but the Collieries defence held strong.
The full-time whistle went at 3-2 for the Colls, a scoreline that is potentially harsh on a Colls defence who could only be beaten by two long range efforts, and forwards who on another day could’ve scored four or five.
Credit must be given to the visitors however, who played their part in a thoroughly enjoyable & competitive 90 minutes of football. We look forward to welcoming the Linnets to the Skuna Stadium yet again next Saturday, as we prepare to be their opponents in their debut FA Trophy outing. Following the match, we will have live music in the clubhouse from 9pm, as Jordan of Green Army has assembled a band to help launch our new sponsorship deal with Skuna. Atherton Collieries: Dale Latham, Callum Spooner, Glenn Matthews, Danny Lambert, Danny Lafferty, Matty Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey, Jordan Cover, David Sherlock, Ben Conway. Substitutes (not used): Connor Gaul (Conway, 91), Adam Farrell (Cover, 78), Josh Messer, James Sigsworth, Luke GiverinRuncorn Linnets: Dylan Forth, Louis Corrigan, Aaron Morris, Peter Wylie, Michael Simpson, Kieran Nolan, Kris Holt, Kyle Hamid, Freddie Potter, Paul Shanley, Niall Watson Attendance: 220
Match Report: Rob Clarke
Photo: Eliza Morgan
Check out Eliza's match photos: flickr.com/photos/164754614@N05/page1 Check out David's match photos: flickr.com/photos/146116962@N06/albums/72157695777957860