AFTER a near three-week layoff due to the wet weather, Runcorn returned to action with a 1-0 away win at Alsager on Saturday to continue their defence of the League Challenge Cup.

The Linnets wore black arm bands on their trip to the Town Ground as a tribute to former Trust Board member Vernon Dwerryhouse, who passed away earlier in the day.

The visitors asserted early pressure on Alsager, Mark Houghton and Antony Hickey forcing good saves from Town ‘keeper Stephen Dryden.

And Dryden kept Linnets scoreless again after Hickey released Michael Duffy.

However, Runcorn hit the lead just before the half-hour point, Mark Houghton finishing off at the far post from a free kick set-piece.

Alsager’s Steve Hughes was given a good chance to equalise when he was put in the clear but his shot went wide to cause no problems for Linnets’ stopper Andy Robertson.

Linnets continued to attack positively as the half-time whistle blew for Runcorn to take the one-goal advantage in with them.

The second half saw Alsager enjoy a couple of chances as some sloppy play saw the Linnets give away possession, Town substitute Milo Edwards missing the hosts’ best chance of an equaliser, Alsager also heading wide from a dangerous cross.

It was a rather more scrappy and disjointed half, with the referee blowing for a succession of free kicks, both Robertson and Gavin Salmon finding their names written in the book.

Hickey then failed to capitalise on a counter-attack to keep the score at 1-0.

But a triple-substitution had a calming effect on the Linnets, Kevin Towey shooting wide and being unluckily caught offside as Runcorn found their threat again.

Alsager fought on to give Linnets a few nervous late moments clearing the goal-line before the whistle blew to signal Linnets’ place in the quarter finals, in which they will host either Congleton or Ashton Athletic on Saturday March 15.

Runcorn Linnets: Andy Robertson, Michael Duffy, Martin Crowder, Michael Burke, Mike Tomlinson, Kyle Hamid, Adam Wade, Michael Simpson, Antony Hickey, Gavin Salmon, Mark Houghton Subs: Matt Cross, Michael Ellison, Kevin Towey, Joe Fielding