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Match Report - Congleton Town 2 Runcorn Linnets 1

What was already a bad week for Runcorn Linnets got worse as they exited this season's Cheshire Senior Cup at the first time of asking.

Coming off the back of a 2-0 Northern Premier League West derby defeat at Widnes on Saturday, Linnets took more punishment against the County Cup holders.

Runcorn were semi-finalists in the 2022-23 competition but their interest this time around was soon in doubt as Congleton scored twice to take a grip on Tuesday's tie.

The Bears, operating one step below their visitors in the National League System, started as underdogs.

However, they are in a rich vein of form, topping the Midland League Premier Division to which they were laterally moved in the summer.

Also the holders of the North West Counties League's Macron Cup, the Bears were semi-finalists in the Isuzu FA Vase last term.

Runcorn had already been heavily beaten at the Cleric Stadium in pre-season and if they were hoping for improved fortunes this time around, they were in for a rude awakening.

Congleton, defeated only once at home all season, shocked Linnets with a fast start which yielded two Max McCarthy goals in the opening 11 minutes.

Both were well taken - the first, after seven minutes, especially so as the striker beat three opponents, shifting the ball from his right foot on to his left to curl home a splendid shot.

Runcorn's effectiveness was blunted by the Bears' high press. The away side did find the net, in the 34th minute, but Olly Molloy's volley was ruled offside.

Both managers made multiple half-time changes.

The three effected by Billy Paynter, who had already handed Alex Jones a starting debut, would have resulted mostly from dissatisfaction with his team's early efforts.

Congleton's four were prompted by thoughts of their latest assault on Wembley in their weekend Vase trip to Lincoln United.

The disruption caused undoubtedly worked in Runcorn's favour with the pattern of play being broken up.

Linnets reignited the contest when rare uncertainty by Bears 'keeper Dave Parton allowed Olly Molloy to pull a goal back with a 50th-minute back-post header.

This followed successive crosses into the box after a half-cleared corner.

However, the sting was largely taken from the game at the break, both goalkeepers enjoying relative comfort for the remainder.

Linnets had recovered to a degree from an ominous start.

But their Cup prospects now hinge on the Liverpool Senior Cup in which they entertain Vanarama National League North side Southport next Tuesday.

But ahead of that, a return to winning form is required in the league on Saturday when sixth-placed Linnets receive Clitheroe, who are a position above them on goal difference.

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt (Mwiya Malumo, 46 mins), Eden Gumbs (James Short, 46 mins), Antony Kay, Peter Wylie, Alex Jones, Joe Lynch, Jacques Welsh, Oliver Molloy, Ryan Brooke (James Hooper, 46 mins), Will Saxon. Subs (not used): Josh Roberts (GK), Adam Moseley.

Attendance: 302.

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