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30th September 2017, Squires Gate v Runcorn Linnets FC : 0-5

By Dave Bettley

From the very first minute, when the visitors hit the woodwork, until the last as a brilliant save denied them, Runcorn Linnets were in complete command of this game.

Total domination was rewarded with the fifth haul of five or more goals this season to round off a prolific September, which has yielded 27 goals in seven outings.

The outclassed hosts, bottom of The Hallmark Security League Premier Division with three points, certainly never looked in contention once top scorer Stuart Wellstead had given Linnets an early lead.

The advantage had been opened in the fifth minute and was overdue even at that stage. The goal had been coming, as they say.

Welllstead's eleventh of the campaign stemmed from the fourth corner of a supercharged start by Michael Ellison's men.

Tom Hardwick had headed against the framework of the goal from the first of these kicks in the opening seconds and the experienced central defender also played a part in the move which sent Runcorn ahead.

He helped to recycle possession from a home half-clearance at the set-piece.

Linnets won the second balls (and most of the firsts) all afternoon, a confident Wellstead smartly capitalising in this instance with a rising close-range shot at the left post.

From that point onwards, the second-in-the-table team were able to do pretty much as they pleased.

Kyle Hamid and Michael Simpson, the latter returning after being unavailable for the midweek victory at AFC Darwen, dictated the pace and pattern in midfield.

However, the key component of the first-half performance was the left-flank attacking combination of full back Matt Atherton and winger Paul Shanley, who have quickly established a fine rapport.

This was only their fourth game in tandem, and in one of those they had ended up in unfamiliar positions. You wouldn't know from their link-up play that they have played together so little.

Squires Gate were simply unable to cope with their inter-passing, movement and pace. w Runcorn were on top all over the park, however with right Danny O'Brien spraying passes to both wings when either going forward or breaking up play.

A linesman's flag, apparently for offside against Mark Houghton, delayed the visitors' progress in the 24th minute as they netted for a second time only to see the effort disallowed.

Shanley's incisive run from the left of goal, between the lines of the six and 18-yard areas, saw the home right back think about but wisely withdraw from a challenge.

The winger's pull back and Atherton's sideways pass teed up Hamid to rifle home ultimately to no avail.

Even if Houghton had been in an offside position - and Gate defence didn't appeal - it was hard to imagine that the striker would have been interfering.

The home 'keeper had a good enough view to get a strongish hand on a shot which carried just too much venom.

The controversial decision could conceivably have impacted on the outcome but a goal either side of half-time ensured that it didn't.

An advantage applied by the referee, when the advancing Simpson was impeded two thirds of the way towards the Squires Gate goal, led to Shanley half volleying home.

Houghton had headed on a cross from the right for the winger to make it 0-2 after 41 minutes and also at the break.

Within three minutes of the restart, Hamid threaded his way past a couple of players to release Simpson into open space and the on-rushing midfielder steered a shot low into the corner to the goalkeeper's right.

It was his fifth goal of the month, sixth of the campaign and the first from inside the area!

'Keeper Nicholas Webb had been left completely unprotected but was beaten at his near post in the 61st minute. Houghton, under pressure from two defenders, had gone for goal when a pass inside to the up-rushing Adam Jones looked likelier.

It took Squires Gate until midway through the second half to produce a shot of any description.

It was on target and a good strike by their substitute Tarren Moxon but Matt Holmes was alert, diving to his left to deal with it.

The visitors were in cruise control, however looking, and threatening, to score at every opportunity.

Freddie Potter, continuing his comeback from injury with a second appearance off the bench in four days, sent a rasping shot against the left post.

Potter must again have thought he had scored in the final action of the game but his well-directed header from Shanley's left-wing cross was some how kept out.

By then, the Linnets had made it 0-5, the energetic Adam Jones carefully guiding home his right-footed shot on the full. The approach work had cone from Hamid, Shanley and finally Atherton who delivered from near the left touchline to the far post.

In registering for the first time in Yellow and Green, young sub Jones became the Linnets' fifth different scorer of the game and their 13th marksman overall in as many league and cup matches this season.

Ellison's side have now scored 37 goals in their 11 Premier Division run-outs, while conceding at an average of exactly one a game.

Runcorn Linnets: Matt Holmes, Matt Atherton, Tom Hardwick, Jimmy Moore, Danny O'Brien, Michael Simpson, Callum Lucy, Kyle Hamid, Mark Houghton, Paul Shanley, Stuart Wellstead. Subs: Adam Jones, Freddie Potter. Not used: Kieran Nolan, Aaron Morris, Terry Smith (GK).

Attendance: 160



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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