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Match Report – Nantwich Town 3 Runcorn Linnets 1

For a second time in four days, Runcorn failed to capitalise on a lead secured relatively late against a team in the lower reaches of the Pitching In Northern Premier League West Division. 

Will Saxon put the Linnets ahead after 71 minutes, but the goal had disastrous consequences for Billy Paynter's men. 

The visitors conceded twice in the next five minutes and shipped a third in the five added for stoppages. 

It left them with just one point from the last six on the road.

Notwithstanding selection problems, particularly in defence, questions will be asked as to how hard-fought winning positions have been squandered and so quickly. 

Saturday's lead at Hednesford Town, secured at a similar stage of the game, had lasted four minutes; this one only two. 

Linnets were again on unfamiliar territory - backing up their first-time visit to Hednesford in Staffordshire with this maiden trip across Cheshire to Swansway Stadium. 

Runcorn had encountered Nantwich only once before, in a home Cheshire Senior Cup tie back in 2016-17 with the Dabbers triumphing by the odd goal in three. 

Further grim news on the injury front concerned the newly re-signed Ryan Gibson, who after getting a runout as a second-half substitute at Hednesford was badly hurt playing in Sunday League football.

Indications are he could be absent for months rather than weeks. 

Meanwhile, holding midfielder Jacques Welsh retreated into a central defensive position - yet another change in that area, enforced this time by the absence of Harry Hagan.

Welsh's partnership with Peter Wylie was Runcorn's seventh different pairing at the heart of the back four in a season, which is just two months old. 

Even Alex Jones, another centre back who was recruited late last week, is shaking off an injury which has delayed his inclusion in the matchday squad.

At least James Short returned after injury to the starting XI. The full back collected the evening's first caution for a fifth-minute foul on Troy Bourne, whose name was soon added to the referee's book after a retaliatory challenge on Short.

This meant both captains were on yellow cards by the 13th minute.

Runcorn's Lewis Doyle, Joe Lynch and Will Saxon were among the five to join them, so too Steven Hewitt and Connor Heath of Nantwich. 

The first half saw action at both ends but little genuine threat on goal from either side.

Runcorn had to wait until the 44th minute for their nearest attempt. Adam Moseley forced a tip-over save from Scott Moloney with Ryan Brooke, who had worn Nantwich colours in the previous meeting of the clubs, engineering the chance.

Bayleigh Passant, having just been joined on the Linnets' roster by younger brother Harvey (likewise a goalkeeper), made himself "big" to smother a shot by Byron Harrison as Nantwich threatened to steal in front in the 54th minute. 

But Runcorn were getting on top, Moseley and Will Saxon posing danger. Brooke should have rewarded their pressure but couldn't get a true connection with his header, from a Sam Barrett cross. 

Saxon, another former Nantwich player now in the Runcorn ranks, forced the breakthrough with 19 minutes left on the clock. 

However, it took Nantwich little time to respond through the tall figure of Harrison, despite Runcorn appeals for offside. 

Things got worse for shell-shocked Linnets as Nantwich went in front with a 75th-minute goal which was credited to Ahmed Ali. But Short, on the goal line, might have applied the final touch. 

Manager Paynter sent on new signing Mwiya Malumo, a striker from Atherton Collieries with past Nantwich connections, for his debut while Alex Perry also came off the bench for a long-awaited return. 

Perry replaced Doyle, who had been running the risk of a second booking. 

Short sent a shot over the bar as Runcorn strived to salvage something before Harvey Sample came on for Joe Lynch - his first Linnets appearance since August 22nd. 

Only a good hand from Moloney foiled Brooke's hopes of an 89th-minute equaliser and going into stoppage time, the same Runcorn forward sent a free-kick over the top.

But sub Eric Yahaya put Linnets out of their misery with Nantwich's third goal of the night in his first league outing for the hosts.

Runcorn lie eleventh in the table with eleven points from eight games and might welcome the chance to recuperate over what will be a free weekend, due to intended visitors Leek Town being on FA Cup duty. 

Linnets are next on duty on Tuesday, October 17th at Trafford in NPL West.

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt, James Short, Jacques Welsh, Peter Wylie, Lewis Doyle (Alex Perry, 80 mins), Adam Moseley, Joe Lynch (Harvey Sample, 85 mins), Ryan Brooke, Will Saxon, Eden Gumbs (Mwiya Malumo, 77 mins). Subs not used: Josh Elverstone, Josh Roberts (GK).

Attendance: 390.

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