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Match report - Runcorn Linnets 3 Hednesford Town 0

Linnets enjoyed a comfortable victory over relegation-haunted Hednesford, although it could have been even more convincing.

Runcorn were on top from virtually start to finish, the second half in particular bringing a procession of spurned opportunities.

Billy Paynter's promotion seekers added a goal at either end of the half to cement their 1-0 interval advantage.

They would, however, have had a lot more with better finishing and without the many interventions of Hednesford's over-worked 'keeper Kieran Boucher.

He pulled off a series of defiant stops, including a couple of double saves, as Runcorn blitzed their opponents.

Linnets' wastefulness helped the next-to-bottom visitors to somehow remain in contention until Olly Molloy put the issue beyond all doubt by grabbing Runcorn's third in the 90th minute.

In the week, Hednesford had made a managerial change - their second since October's 1-1 Keys Park draw between the sides - with former Leek, Congleton and Warrington Town boss Paul Moore taking charge.

They managed to keep the game competitive before the break yet caused very few concerns for the home defence throughout.

Boucher got a taste of things to come when saving at his right post from Jacques Welsh - the rebound being scrambled off the line before Olly Molloy could pounce - and down to his left from Mackenzie O'Neill.

The deadlock was broken in the 27th minute.

Runcorn hadn't been sufficiently accurate with their crosses in open play.

But man-of-the-match James Short's delivery from a right-wing corner was ideally placed for Antony Kay to head home from beyond the back post.

The opener had ironically followed Hednesford's brightest spell.

The slenderness of the half-time lead made it clear at the break that the job was far from done but within four minutes of the restart, Runcorn took a huge step towards victory.

Boucher had already had his fingers warmed again, by a Kieran Knapper shot from distance when O'Neill romped through from the first of many Runcorn clean breaks in the second 45 minutes.

While Boucher held up the midfielder's progress with a blocking save, the ball squirmed free from under the goalkeeper's body for O'Neill to score at the second attempt.

Hednesford found themselves under siege for the remainder of the game with Saxon and O'Neill misfiring in the same move, after charging into positions which had left both with only the 'keeper to beat.

It was Boucher to the rescue again, showing sharp reactions as Sam Barratt and Molloy were also denied in quick succession.

The 'keeper kept out a couple of testing efforts from Knapper and prevailed in a one-on-one with sub Adam Moseley, who caused havoc when introduced on the right wing.

By that time, Hednesford had lost their left back Jack Kelly, who had no alternative but to bring down Knapper as the last man with the inevitable outcome of a red card.

The Linnets winger had seen space open up for him to complete a central solo run from the edge of one box to the brink of the other.

Referee George Eaton also dispensed four yellows including one for a foul by Lewis Doyle, a blemish on a standout stint in the Runcorn midfield.

For all the home domination, there was always a fear with so many chances having been missed, that one Runcorn mistake or a piece of Hednesford magic could put the game back in the balance.

But Runcorn were intent on their 10th league clean sheet and in the event, the visitors did little over the 90 minutes to endanger it.

The scoreline took on a more if not overly realistic look with time almost up.

Top scorer Molloy was well placed to accept a cross from influental full back Barratt, who had fastened onto a return pass by Moseley on the right.

The centre forward has scored 15 goals in 24 appearances since arriving from Charnock Richard, his latest setting up second-in-the-table Runcorn nicely for next Saturday's visit to Pitching In Northern Premier League leaders, Leek Town.

Leek are nine points clear with 10 to play.

Runcorn Linnets: Bayleigh Passant, Sam Barratt, James Short, Jacques Welsh, Sean O'Mahony, Antony Kay, Kieran Knapper, Lewis Doyle, Olly Molloy (Eric Byrne, 90 mins), Will Saxon (Adam Moseley, 80 mins), Mackenzie O'Neill (Ryan Brooke, 75 mins). subs (not used): Peter Wylie, Josh Roberts (GK).

Attendance: 645.


Mackenzie O'Neill brings a save from Kieran Boucher before slotting away the rebound for Linnets' second goal. Picture by Neil Thornton.

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