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Match report – Runcorn Linnets 0 Trafford 0

By Dave Bettley


Runcorn Linnets dropped two precious points in their Pitching In Northern Premier League West promotion quest.

They were unable to breach the Trafford rearguard, despite completely dominating in the first half and having the better chances after the break when the play was more even. 

The visitors were indebted to their 'keeper Sam Booth in a game which was more exciting than the scoreline suggests. 

Although not tested enough by an ultimately frustrated home team, Booth crucially kept out a Lewis Doyle penalty while also producing two outstanding saves in open play, the first of these from one of his own defenders. 

Linnets were intent on attack from the start and carried much more of a threat than in recent home games.

New loan signing from NPL Premier Division outfit Bamber Bridge, Mackenzie O'Neill posed problems early on, peeling off the Trafford defence from the left flank with well-timed runs. 

On the opposite wing, Kieran Knapper, after a quiet debut in the victory at Vauxhall Motors, was this time much more involved.

He showed a willingness and ability to beat the opposition full back on the outside and to win possession with his tackling.

But the real eye catcher was once again Will Saxon, who was essentially playing in a central position off the front but seemed to be everywhere. 

His boundless energy drew a foul by Jordan Fagbola  for the first-half penalty, which was fatefully spurned. Doyle's 16th-minute attempt had neither the power nor direction to beat Booth.

Knapper and Saxon each saw further spot-kick claims dismissed by the referee while a cross by the former was met by a flashing header from Olly Molloy, who was unlucky to see the effort go narrowly wide. 

For all Runcorn's territorial advantage, attacking endeavour and promise, it meant the most difficult save for Booth in the opening 45 minutes was an athletic tip-over to prevent an own goal, sparing the blushes of Harry Norris.

The central defender's touch on another Knapper cross could have been disastrous.

It was encouraging to see Molloy better supported in attack, Runcorn benefiting from extra pace introduced to the team. Trafford had been made to work very hard to stay level. 

The start to the second half promised a repeat of the all-out assault on the away side's goal.

But the visitors, having at times been wide open before the interval, closed ranks effectively and looked far less vulnerable.

That wasn't to say that Runcorn didn't cause difficulties but it took the introduction of Ryan Brooke to force a save from the confident Booth.

He reached high to turn away the substitute's goalbound effort from the left of the area. 

A fortunate ricochet inside the box almost let in Saxon, who continued on his roving commission, although inevitably tiring after taking a couple of hefty knocks.

But Booth was close enough to  smother, the Trafford No.1 crowning his impressive display with a series of takes from James Short set-pieces. 

Adam Moseley looked lively after replacing Molloy for the closing stages but couldn't pick out the in-rushing Brooke with a cross which found its way into the clutches of the imposing 'keeper. 

Trafford's improved sense of security had after the interval prompted greater adventure on the counter attack. 

Runcorn always had to be alert to the fact that their superiority might go completely unrewarded. 

Visiting midfielder Tom Beckett wasn't far away with a curling effort from outside the area. 

Another threatening breakaway saw left back Damola Satona link up well to deliver into the box.

But in a largely untaxing afternoon for Bayleigh Passant, the Runcorn 'keeper was down at the near post to snuff out the danger. 

There were no slip-ups from his defenders either. 

With a quarter of the game still to play, Trafford brought on former Runcorn full-back favourite Ally Brown for his much anticipated APEC Taxis reunion.

He took up a midfield role, which suited him well enough given his attacking tendencies. 

Brown picked up one of three Trafford cautions late on, Brooke being the only Runcorn player in the referee's bad books. 

Despite their best efforts, the teams had to settle for the second draw between them this season.

The first had been an October 2-2 in Trafford manager Karl Marginson's first match in charge. 

With the teams still fighting battles at opposite ends of the table, Trafford were unsurprisingly happier with both results.

But Linnets have played worse this season than they did on Saturday and won.

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt (Peter Wylie 73 mins), James Short, Jacques Welsh, Shaun O 'Mahony, Antony Kay, Kieran Knapper (Ryan Brooke, 61 mins), Lewis Doyle, Olly Molloy (Adam Moseley, 77 mins ), Will Saxon, Mackenzie O'Neill. Subs (not used): Eden Gumbs, Eric Byrne.

Attendance: 639.

Picture by Neil Thornton.

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