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Match report - Avro 1 Runcorn Linnets 2

By Dave Bettley

With five red cards - two Runcorn players, one from Avro and both managers being sent off - it looked as if this is high-end battle in Pitching In NPL West would be remembered for the wrong reasons. 

But Will Saxon (pictured) ensured there is something more positive to recall as his stunning, last-gasp goal dramatically settled matters in favour of Linnets. 

Headlines were set to be exclusively taken by a mass brawl on the hour mark, involving players and backroom staff of both teams and leading to the dismissals of Louis Potts for the hosts and Runcorn's Antony Kay. 

The respective managers, Alex Frost and Billy Paynter were also sent off for failing to control their 'benches'. 

But the player, whose actions sparked everything off went unpunished. Max Harrop had left a high boot on Sean O'Mahony after a touchline challenge yet the referee didn't even award a foul.

This was the catalyst for the scenes, which marred a decent game in appalling weather conditions at Vestacare Stadium in Oldham. 

Ironically, O'Mahony became the last to take an early shower, downing Harrop with a mistimed tackle which earned the centre half his second caution.

It wasn't retribution, just a clumsy challenge by the Linnets vice-captain.

The 90 minutes were up. However, there was still time for the by now nine-man Linnets to shock Avro's ten as Saxon produced his piece of match-winning magic.

Skipper James Short and Joe Lynch did the spadework to get Runcorn up the field,  Olly Molloy laying the ball off for Saxon to manufacture a position for a curling shot into the right corner.

Full-time celebrations for the Runcorn players were more like those reserved for Cup final success than a December league victory – likewise the noise from the travelling fans. They had ominated the 300 crowd, which had braved the wind and rain.

Thiis was only the second home defeat of the league season for Avro. The result left Runcorn in third place and their hosts in fourth.

As would have been expected, there had been little to choose between the teams.

Both hit the woodwork - Runcorn thanks to a fine James Hooper effort at 1-0 up in the first half and Harrop with a swirling cross for the Greater Manchester team when it was 10v10. 

The score had been level at half-time after an unusual goal apiece. 

Olly Molloy put the visitors ahead on the half hour. Confusion between Grant Shenton and central defender Sam Rathbone prompted the off-balance 'keeper to blast an attempted clearance straight at Molloy.

The centre forward was rewarded for closing down as the ball hit his body and rebounded into a gaping net. 

Avro's equaliser eight minutes later was direct from Jake Cottrell's right-wing corner, which had deceived Bayleigh Passant in its flight. 

Passant and Shenton both had saves to make in the second half, the degree of difficulty being greater for Avro's No.1. He turned away efforts from distance by Sam Barratt and Molloy. 

But the best goal saver of all was an off-the-line clearance by full-back Barratt, who got back to diverted away a lob by ex-Linnet Ben Wharton when it was about to drop in. 

It was this kind of determination, which got Linnets across the winning line after a full-blooded encounter, in which two of their players were yellow carded. 

The victory lifted Linnets to within a couple of points of leaders Leek Town - one adrift of second-placed Prescot Cables, who have a game in hand on the other top-three sides. 

Next up for Runcorn is a home game this coming Saturday against City of Liverpool, whose excellent run in the Isuzu FA Trophy ended on Saturday with a third-round defeat to National League outfit, Hartlepool United. 

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt, James Short, Antony Kay, Peter Wylie, Sean O'Mahony, Will Saxon (Alex Jones, 90 mins), Jacques Welsh, Olly Molloy, Joe Lynch, James Hooper. Subs (not used): Josh Roberts (GK), Mwiya Malumo.

Attendance: 307.

Photo courtesy of Neil Thornton.

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