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Match report - Runcorn Linnets 2 Mossley 0

By Jack McGorry; pictures by Neil Thornton and Charlie Buckley. 

The Linnets haven’t had much luck of late with the weather. 

Easter Monday’s fixture away at Prescot Cables had been a soggy, damp affair.

For Saturday afternoon’s home tie versus Mossley, APEC Taxis Stadium was looking sun-drenched but a brutal wind was howling, courtesy of a looming Storm Kathleen.

Conditions inevitably had a bearing on the game again. 

The Yellows, unbeaten in four but needing a win after three successive draws, made four changes from Monday’s 2-2 draw as Will Saxon, Sam Barratt and Mackenzie O’Neill replaced James Short, Eden Gumbs and Jacques Welsh. 

Goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant, out with a broken finger, had younger brother Harvey taking his place between the sticks. 

It didn’t take long for the game’s first goal, as the Yellows capitalised on a free-kick on the left within seven minutes.

Lewis Doyle’s delivery into the box was met at the far post by Kieran Knapper, whose perfectly-timed volleyed pass in turn found Ryan Brooke.

The in-rushing striker's glancing header was directed past Mossley’s 'keeper Finlay Madigan and into the back of the net. Both sides struggled to keep possession throughout the first half, as the wind made passing difficult.

Sam Barratt was enjoying freedom on the right wing from the full back position and after being picked out by the mercurial Will Saxon, Sam’s charging run gave him the opportunity to find an awaiting Mackenzie O’Neill.

The pass, however, was cut out thanks to a combined effort in defending from Mossley's Kane Hickman and Luke Barlow. 

Eighteen minutes into the first half, Mossley were close to drawing level. Sean O’Mahony’s headed attempt to clear from the Linnets box could only find a lurking Reece Webb-Foster at the back post.

His low, driven effort was saved by an on-rushing Harvey Passant, who looked calm and assured on his debut. Although the Linnets had seen the majority of possession up to that point, there were no further clear-cut efforts on either side’s goal before the interval.

As referee Daniel Hitchell blew for half-time, Runcorn Linnets were happy to be in the lead and, in such tough conditions, maybe even happier to be heading back inside to the changing rooms.

The Yellows kicked off the second half in similar fashion to the first - in style.

A quick turn in midfield from the impressive Joe Thompson was enough to force Mossley’s Ben Darby to bring him down for a Linnets free-kick in the 47th minute. Another fantastic curling ball in from man-of-the-match Lewis Doyle flicked off the head of Ben Derby and found veteran defender Antony Kay, whose hooked half-volley looped over Madigan and into the top right corner of the net.

The fine left-footed finish from Kay, sent the Shed End into wild celebrations. Soon after, it was Mackenzie O’Neill’s turn to try to get on the scoresheet. 

After twisting and turning, Kieran Knapper laid on a perfect pass for O’Neill, his shot on goal bringing a fine save from Madigan. 

Boss Billy Paynter made three substitutions within 10 minutes, James Short camr on for Peter Wylie, Olly Molloy (back from his travels) replaced Mackenzie O’Neill and a huge round of applause from Linnets fans greeted the returning James Hooper, on for Will Saxon in the 69th minute.

This was Hooper's first appearance in the Yellow and Green since he sustained an arm injury the 2-4 win at Vauxhall Motors on January 27th.

Knapper was close to grabbing his first goal for the club late on. His dazzling run into the box from the right-wing caused all sorts of problems for the Mossley defence but the winger's shot sailed just wide of goal. Mossley countered a few minutes later, substitutes Jack Banister and Justin Iwobi combining.

Banister crossed into the box for Iwobi, who had time and space to guide his header into the net. But he could only send his effort wide. 

With the game coming to an end, James Hooper looked to have got himself on the scoresheet.

His wind-affected cross from a corner sailed past everyone, including Madigan, and into the Mossley goal.

It would have been 3-0 to the Linnets, but the referee adjudged there had been a foul on the Mossley 'keeper, leaving a fair few of the Linnets faithful scratching their heads. But Linnets had done enough already to deservedly take all three points. With Prescot Cables drawing at home to 19th-placed Hednesford, the Yellows moved back up into 2nd place due to a superior goal difference of one.

The race for the play-offs continues with a visit to Hanley Town on Saturday (April 13th).

Runcorn Linnets: Harvey Passant, Sam Barratt, Peter Wylie (James Short, 62 mins), Joe Thompson, Sean O’Mahony, Antony Kay, Mackenzie O’Neill (Olly Molloy, 65 mins), Lewis Doyle, Ryan Brooke, Will Saxon (James Hooper, 69 mins), Kieran Knapper. Subs (not used): Jacques Welsh, Eric Byrne.  Attendance: 585.    

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