Report: Runcorn Town 2-1 Colls

If this weekend’s furibund action were to be broadcast by the TV giants of this world, then they would have tasked somebody to conjure together a catchy and memorable tagline to entice viewers. Super Saturday would have been the front runner; no doubt. So, with four of the top five going head-to-head, it really was all to play for at the top of the table. Top of the pile, Atherton Collieries, travelled to fifth placed Runcorn Town, who despite sitting four places below the leaders still possessed real title credentials. They found themselves nine points behind Colls, with a game in hand and with the two to face each other both home and away. Away from The Pavilions, third placed Runcorn Linnets secured a 4-1 victory over fourth placed 1874 Northwich in what turned out to be another action packed encounter. Collieries came into the game having not been beaten in the league since September and had kept four clean sheets on the bounce. A defeat was bound to come at some stage and it came in the form of Runcorn Town who fought hard to come from behind to deliver a sucker punch. Playing conditions were discombobulating at times, with the pitch being heavy under foot. It wasn’t conducive to a passing game and the home team adapted far better to the conditions. Collieries can consider themselves unlucky to have lost the match in the manner that they did but Runcorn dug in well and can duly celebrate a well fought victory. Both sides found it difficult to settle and the match only began to open up towards the end of the first half. Runcorn had a larger share of the possession and had more sustained periods in and around the Colls defensive third but the visitors looked more dangerous on the rare occasion they did manage to mount an attack. The tone for the afternoon was set inside the opening five minutes when Runcorn’s Kevin Excell was booked for a late challenge on Johnny Gorman. Both sides were guilty of poor challenges which could have resulted in serious injury. Runcorn’s combative defender Carl Rodgers, on another occasion, would have been dismissed for a late two footed challenge on Neil Chappell, while Colls defender Jamie Forbes somehow evaded a red card for the same offence, with the referee choosing to not even book him. On the ten minute mark, the home side had claims for a penalty turned down after a scramble from a corner. The ball was floated in from the right hand side and as Collieries tried to clear it, Forbes ended up on the floor after being felled by a Runcorn attacker and ultimately ended up shielding the ball in an unconventional manner. Did he handle it? No. Did he obstruct the ball? Possibly. Either way, the ball was cleared through the unorthodox style of defending and Colls could breathe a sigh of relief. Runcorn continued to pin Colls in their defensive third with wave after wave of long balls from the back. Atherton were equal to these and it made for painful viewing for the neutral. Collieries began to gain a foothold in proceedings on the half hour mark. Gareth Peet was relentless bombing down the left hand side, linking up with Johnny Gorman. The defender found himself blocked off by Town right back Joe Kearns and he found himself rather harshly booked for this minor offence. From the resulting free kick, Colls began to mount on some pressure as they struck the crossbar. Peet floated the set piece in from the left hand side and it was centre half Danny Lafferty who rose highest to direct the ball towards goal; eventually crashing back off the underside of the bar. A few moments later and Colls were building on their previous effort as they went surging forward on a rapid counter attack. Gorman carried the ball forward and then played a delicate through ball to his attacking partner Jordan Cover. The striker raced forward, beating his marker but unfortunately skewed his shot wide of the target. Two minutes later and Colls had a goal ruled out when Neil Chappell was adjudged to have been in an offside position. It was a shame as it was a great move which allowed Chappell to delicately volley the ball into the bottom right hand corner, leaving goalkeeper Louis Mackin glued to the spot. Joe Holt was a stand out performer for Runcorn, rarely being beaten in midfield battles and looking to move forward whenever possible. He came close to catching Colls out just prior to the half time whistle when he took a quick free kick from 40 yards out, attempting to catch Adam Reid off his line. The final chance of the half fell to Colls and once again they hit the woodwork. Patient build up play saw Ben Hardcastle pick up possession on the edge of the Runcorn area. He took one touch to set the ball in front of him before striking an effort off the outside of the right hand post. Marginally close yet again. Half time – Runcorn Town 0-0 Atherton Collieries As the second half wore on, it became more open and stretched and made for more entertaining viewing. Atherton continued to try to play nice, fast paced football while Runcorn looked more effective with their direct style of play which would see them craft two goals. On 52 minutes, Brad Cooke found himself in an advanced position and came close to opening the scoring. A nice lofted ball into the area from Gareth Peet allowed the captain to take one touch before volleying towards goal. Mackin, in the end, made a solid save and Runcorn then went on an attack of their own. It was end to end stuff and it was Collieries who opened the scoring on 63 minutes, to send the travelling supporters into raptures. Jordan Cover skipped down the right hand side of the box and squared the ball across to Johnny Gorman who recorded his first goal for the club, finishing from close range. Almost immediately from the kick off Runcorn equalised. Simon Thelwall played through the league’s leading goalscorer Craig Cairns and he made no mistake, finishing into the bottom right hand corner past Adam Reid. Colls continued to move forward in an attempt to regain the lead but this ultimately led to them being caught on the counter attack on 73 minutes, with Cairns finishing once again. A through ball wasn’t dealt with by the Colls defence and it allowed the former Cammell Laird striker to race through and slot the ball into the left hand corner. This goal galvanised Runcorn, while Atherton’s heads began to drop and it seemed like the scoreline would remain in favour of the home side. Michael Clegg did bring on leading goalscorer Mark Battersby, winger Mark Truffas and midfielder Vinny Bailey in an attempt to get something from the game but this proved fruitless. Truffas had a free kick cleared off the line in the closing stages and Runcorn claimed a vital win in their promotion push. Atherton Collieries are still in the driving seat and are still top of the pile. They now have no unbeaten record to protect and this will surely prove to be a massive weight lifted from the shoulders of the players. Runcorn Town – Louis Mackin, Joseph Kearns, Louis Moss, Marcus James, Matthew Woodward, Carl Rodgers, Joseph Holt, Kevin Exell, Simon Thelwal ©, Craig Cairns, Mark Reed – Substitutes – Daniel Jarrett, Philip Marsh, Mark McGregor, Craig Jones Atherton Collieries – Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Josh Messer, Daniel Lafferty, Jamie Forbes (Vinny Bailey), Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke © (Mark Truffas), Jordan Cover, Neil Chappell, Johnny Gorman (Mark Battersby) – Substitutes – Vinny Bailey, Liam Wood, Mark Battersby, Matt Grimshaw, Mark Truffas Attendance – 167 Match report by Joseph Gibbons Photo by Rob Clarke

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