11th October 2017, Hanley Town v Runcorn Linnets FC : 1-1It was a case of déjà vu for Runcorn Linnets as they left Hanley Town for the second season running with a creditable point, but rueing a number of cards that this time made a mockery of the hitherto second best disciplinary record in the division.
The repercussions in terms of suspensions may also have a huge bearing on this season's FA Vase challenge.
Finishing the game with eight players, the visitors will probably take consolation with a point, even though Hanley only found their equaliser with minutes to play.
Mitch Bryant came in for the injured Mark Houghton, as the Linnets started strongly, and Bryant went close in the opening seconds, firing into the side netting.
More pressure followed, and Paul Shanley's shot on goal was blocked and ballooned over for the first of a series of corners. On twelve minutes, the first caution of many arrived after a late challenge from Hanley No 6, but the Linnets had the early upper hand, and a swift passing movement fell to Antony Hickey who fired over from just outside the area.
Next in the book was Kyle Hamid, for a challenge that was more clumsy than late, and the sides exchanged attacking waves, with Runcorn heading over and then the home side having a busy spell with a couple of corners, before a Hanley player was booked for a dive in the area.
The irony wasn't lost on the home fans after the officials had waved away three Linnets penalty appeals without retribution.
The Linnets ended the first period in the ascendency, Simpson not quite finding his range from distance, whilst the ever-menacing Shanley and Atherton combination down the left gave the home side difficulty.
Mitch Bryant fouled his way into the referee's notebook as the half ended with few real chances of note to discuss over a half-time cuppa.
Hanley started the second period the brighter, and it was somewhat against the run of play when the Linnets took the lead on 57 minutes, with Hallmark Security League Player Of The Month for September Stuart Wellstead opening his October account with a solid header from close in.
Aaron Morris and the Hanley No 5 were next in the ref's book, and Kyle Hamid went very close with a free kick.
Linnets manager Michael Ellison chose to make changes with Bryant and Wellstead replaced by Freddie Potter and Kieran Nolan, with Nolan going straight into the notebook before touching the ball for a strong but rash challenge.
Hanley's No 7 was the next caution, in a game that was becoming frustratingly disjointed, and again the sides exchanged chances before Oliver Mellor steered in from close range with a couple of minutes to go to level the scores.
What followed was difficult to comprehend. Hickey was shown a straight red for a poor challenge and two team-mates followed after second yellows.
Hamid received both a free-kick and his marching orders for pushing an opponent in retaliation and and Morris walked for knocking the ball away.
The visitors managed to steer themselves to a point without a further scare on goal, not enough time for Hanley to stretch the remaining eight men of Runcorn.
It was difficult to keep track on an actual card count, but the game didn't deserve the amount of cautions dished out.
Linnets had ended up with other cautions to go with the three dismissals while six Hanley players in all - Theo Stair, Josh Thorpe, Ben Bowers, Neville Thompson, Thomas Ashton and their scorer Mellor - received yellow cards.
Safe to say it was probably spoiled as a spectacle, although a point apiece was probably a fair outcome at the final whistle.
The Linnets of Runcorn move quickly on to Saturday, to face The Linnets of Burscough.
Runcorn Linnets: Matt Holmes, Matt Atherton, Aaron Morris, Jimmy Moore, Danny O'Brien, Michael Simpson, Stuart Wellstead, Kyle Hamid, Mitch Bryant, Paul Shanley, Antony Hickey. Subs: Freddie Potter, Kieran Nolan. Not used: Adam Jones, Callum Lucy.
NB. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Runcorn Linnets FC or its Board.