The Northern Premier League

17th August 2021, Glossop North End v Runcorn Linnets FC : 3-1

Report by David 'Bill' Davies

Runcorn Linnets made the one-hour journey to Surrey Street for a first away game of the Pitching In Northern Premier Division One West season against Glossop North End with high hopes, having broken the home hoodoo against Widnes with a thoroughly deserved victory while their hosts had opened their account with a lacklustre goalless draw at Kendal.

The script followed that of the Widnes opener, though, with a gritty first half where tackles outnumbered passes, and clear chances were at a premium. Most of those that did materialise fell to the visitors in orange, the best a 20-yard Iwan Murray drive before the half-hour that beat the vertical reach of 'keeper Harry Allen but glanced off the top of the crossbar.

The story continued to echo the Halton derby, with an opening goal coming two minutes before thebreak. But it went to Glossop, despite the fact that they went in at half-time having failed to register an attempt on target. Their efforts down the right flank were all executed by former Linnet Bevan Burey, and fans of both sides behind that touchline were convinced the ball was a foot over it before the cross was played that broke the deadlock. The goal was credited to Glossop No11 Rory Fallon, but it was impossible to see how, given that it was destined for the hands of Runcorn 'keeper, Joe Young until it deflected off the head of his skipper James Short behind him and inside the far side netting.

There was a distinct time lapse before the goal celebrations, the North End players in attendance apparently as surprised as anyone to see the ball settle in the net.

The first player to make a threatening presence felt had been Iwan Murray, supplied by Lynch, Smith and Brown from the right, and the game was 13 minutes old when the home defence appeared to recognise, as so many have before, that fouling him before he could reach their penalty area was their best bet.

A trip on him by Khius Metz gave a free-kick from which three touches found Iwan in the area, but he hooked a shot two yards wide.

It followed a chance for GNE from a hospital back-pass by Laurence Smith, which Young had to chest down, and he managed to clear it just before the rapidly-advancing Fallon could get there.

Another risky pass across the Runcorn third allowed a three-man aerial move by Stanton, Fallon and Jones-Griffiths but it ended wide for a goal-kick.

On 20 minutes Murray was chopped down again, after a cross from Lynch. The free-kick was slammed into the defensive wall by Smith, whose second attempt from the rebound didn't have the power to trouble Allen in the Glossop goal.

Ten minutes of tackling between the penalty areas resulted in no more chances either way, and a consistent pattern was established when almost every ball in the air was won by a man in a blue shirt. Ryan Brooke did get a touch higher to a Brown cross than two defenders to flick on to Eden Gumbs wide left, but the ball outpaced him to the goal line.

A resulting break the other way set up Glossop's Mitchell Glover for a shot from distance, but it cleared the bar and the perimeter fence.

Joe Lynch looked all set to open the scoring on 32 minutes, a scramble on the 18-yard line setting him free to run wide of the 'keeper, but the shot from outside the left corner of the six-yard box was from too tight an angle for sufficient power to prevent Will Hartstone from scooping it away from the line.

On 37 minutes, yet another foul on Murray from 25 yards set up a free-kick for either Smith's left boot or Lynch's right. It was the latter that sent it over the bar.

Five minutes of offensive home activity followed into the Runcorn third, but Joe Young was largely untroubled as Brown, Downes, Welsh, Hayes and Short defended comprehensively.

Until that cross from touch diverted off the head of Short for Fallon's oddly-accredited goal.

Runcorn did make an immediate attempt to rectify matters, a break down the right finding Brooke inside the area. He managed a powerful shot on target, but Hartstone timed his point-blank block perfectly to concede a throw-in.

That generated a cross that Harry Allen caught confidently above the heads of Brooke and Gumbs to see his side into the break a goal to the good.

Testament to the fact that Glossop manager Stuart Mellish was happier than opposite number Calum McIntyre with his team's showing lay in the fact that he was to finish the game with the same eleven players who started it. For Runcorn, Dapo Olarewaju started the second half in place of Laurence Smith, who had struggled to emulate his man-of-the-match performance on Saturday.

That in turn lent credit to the tight marking and tackling of the home side, allowing him no space to make things happen.

From the restart, the substitution looked a masterstroke, Dapo's pace causing immediate alarm on Glossop's left, pulling them out of shape and providing opportunities for Brooke and Gumbs in the penalty area. It didn't take long to bear fruit, although it was a cross from Short on the left, following the inevitable foul on Murray and a free-kick slipped wide to Gumbs, that levelled the scores after less than two minutes of the half.

It was true grit among a forest of bodies in the six-yard box that enabled Ryan Brooke to beat four defenders to the header and force the ball past the 'keeper.

Ten minutes followed in which Runcorn fans, and the Glossop management team, according to their post-match interview, believed that Linnets might take control as they had against Widnes.

Dapo was at the heart of a string of multiple passing moves that had Glossop scrambling, his presence visibly speeding up proceedings.

Brown and Short moved forward more on the wings, Murray and Lynch had more time on the ball, Gumbs was reaching the by-line more, all increasing the threat of Brooke.

And Glossop's defensive efforts became less controlled and more a case of whacking it over the stand.

It didn't last, however, and if there was a key to North End's eventual victory, it probably hung in the air.

Apart from Brooke's goal, almost everything above shoulder height was won by men in blue all night. Ironically, the shape of the last half hour was equally determined by players going to ground.

Squally rain came in on a brisk wind, and perhaps an increasingly slick pitch might have hadsomething to do with the frequency of big strong lads falling over at every challenge.

This might have affected the game less if referee Mr Davies (no relation) hadn't decided that falling over means you've been fouled. Love him though Linnets still do, Bevan Burey spent more time on the floor than an overworked carpet fitter.

The best Runcorn chances at 1-1 saw a powerful Brooke shot just over the bar from an Olaweraju cross from the by-line, and when a free-kick from deep on the right cleared much wrestling along the 18-yard line, it reached Eden Gumbs for a firm header that was held below the bar by Allen.

Meanwhile, Glossop were regaining their composure and mounting attacks, without serious threat to the away goal, until a 68th- minute free-kick from wide right crossed the penalty area. Joe Young looked favourite, but he missed the flight of the ball and Ethan Stanton was given far too much time to put North End back in front.

Two minutes later, Dapo's shirt was almost removed by an opponent as he broke into the GNE half, the free-kick leading to Hartshorne slicing a clearance out for a corner.

That was cleared in the air, and on the break Burey won a free-kick which Glover delivered identically to the one that brought Stanton's goal. This time Alex Downes' head propelled it away.

Gumbs found Dapo in the area, but his shot was saved on the ground by Allen.

A little over ten minutes remained when MJ Monaghan was introduced for Eden Gumbs to help find a way back in for Runcorn, and he did give the solid Glossop defence some extra concerns around the left half of the penalty area.

But during the next two minutes, North End chalked up a near miss and were gifted a winner.

A cross from the right found Metz near the far post, but he shot the wrong side of it, and then Bev Burey broke free from 30 yards out, and reached the penalty area just before Jacques Welsh upended him from behind.

Young dived the right way, but Fallon placed his spot-kick perfectly inside the right post.

The Linnets never gave up, and Stanton had to take a yellow card for tripping Brooke in a very similar fashion to Welsh on Burey, albeit 35 yards from goal.

Two minutes later, Stanton cynically hauled back Iwan Murray much closer to the danger zone. But Mr Davies decided the Glossop No8 should remain on the pitch for the last five minutes.

Otherwise, free-kicks for very little outnumbered chances over the closing minutes, and there was a note of inevitability about the final whistle heralding Glossop North End's first league win of the season, and Runcorn Linnets' first defeat.

Seven days will elapse before Linnets set about continuing a winning home start against so-far pointless Newcastle Town. In between, there is a trip to Oldham for the FA Cup Preliminary tie against Avro FC.

Runcorn Linnets:Joe Young, Ally Brown, James Short, Louis Hayes, Alex Downes, Jacques Welsh, Joe Lynch, Laurence Smith (Oladapo Olaweraju 45), Ryan Brooke, Iwan Murray, Eden Gumbs, (MJ Monaghan 79). Subs not used: Sam Harding, Stuart Crilly, Carl Spellman.

Attendance: 300.

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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