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Match report  - Runcorn 0 Bootle 1

Updated: Mar 10

By Dave Bettley

A game which began poorly for Linnets didn't get any better.

If they were looking for a response after last week's reversal at leaders Leek Town, it didn't come.

For the second time in eight days, Billy Paynter's side came off distinctly second best against another of their fellow promotion chasers.

They now face a test of character to regain lost momentum because this performance was way short of the standard required to sustain a promotion bid.

With Mackenzie O'Neill having suffered a knee injury in training on Thursday, Runcorn showed one change in their starring line-up from the previous Saturday. But this involved a reshuffle.

Peter Wylie came in at centre back with  Antony Kay pushing up into the holding midfield position and Lewis Doyle reverting to No.10 role.

Linnets were caught cold at the start, falling behind inside two minutes.

Michael Burkey ran laterally across the home 18-yard line and although his progress appeared to have been checked, the Bootle No.10 reacted first as the ball broke to lash home a low shot inside the left post.

Not resting on their laurels, the Bucks could have quickly added a second.

Conor Harwood's through ball sent Ben Hodkinson surging omimously into the clear.

But Bayleigh Passant snuffed out the danger by diving to block at Hodkinson's feet before clearing the ball from inside his penalty area.

It was a relief for Runcorn that Bootle didn't maintain their blistering start. But, at the same time, Billy Paynter's team could find little or no rhythm in their offensive play.

The ball was in the air far too often with the Bucks defence too canny to succumb to long balls launched forward for Olly Molloy to contest.

Runcorn were static, ponderous and predictable. Errors, misplaced passes and wrong decisions didn't aid their cause.

They did force a couple of good saves from Bootle 'keeper Tony Thompson, from a Sean O'Mahony effort at a corner and a flashing shot by Kieran Knapper at the near post.

But the game was crying out for more composure and creativity from the home side, who looked unsettled in possession. Their confidence had clearly been dented by the 3-0 defeat to Leek.

An improvement was needed in the second half but instead, Bootle began it with the same attacking verve that they had the first.

Hodkinson went through again, this time lobbing off target - although Runcorn were denied a clear foul earlier in the move - before O'Mahony made a goal-saving challenge from the next Bootle move.

A mix-up involving O'Mahony and James Short on the Runcorn left allowed Harwood to also threaten the Runcorn goal by charging into the penalty box.

But surrounded by defenders, he was unable to put his attempt on target.

At the other end, Molloy screwed a shot wide while an almighty scramble ended with an effort by Jacques Welsh being charged down.

The visitors picked up three cautions for time wasting, a foul and dissent - this working, if anything, in their favour by breaking up what little flow Runcorn were able to muster.

Substitutions at various stages of the half had no effect in boosting home fortunes.

Individually and collectively, Linnets were completely off form.

As last week, they could have no complaints about the result and their disappointing afternoon was completed by a late yellow card for Wylie.

It was the Bucks' first win at Runcorn since 2010, then North West Counties side Linnets' first season back in town. No wonder they were ecstatic.

Now tied on points with Bootle and Prescot Cables but down a place to third on goal difference, as table-topping Leek extended their lead to 15 points, Linnets must lift themselves for another tough test next Saturday.

Avro will be the visitors to APEC Taxis Stadium.

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt, James Short (Ryan Brooke 81 mins), Peter Wylie, Sean O'Mahony,  Antony Kay (Adam Moseley 53 mins), Kieran Knapper (Eden Gumbs, 72 mins), Jacques Welsh, Olly Molloy, Lewis Doyle, Will Saxon. Sub (not used): Eric Byrne.

Attendance: 651


Above: Bootle keeper Tony Thompson keeps an eye on Runcorn's Kieran Knapper.

Below: Will Saxon is on the charge but there was no joy for Linnets in front of goal.

Pictures by Neil Thornton.

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