MICHAEL Ellison came out of playing retirement for his first on-the-field appearance for 18 months to steer Runcorn Linnets’ skeleton squad to a Buildbase FA Vase first round replay with Team Northumbria.

With suspensions, injuries and unavailability limiting the team to 12 players for Saturday's selection up north, manager Ellison was forced to name himself, assistant Matt Cross and coach Danny Salt as substitutes in the 1-1 draw.

Things were not going to plan when the visitors conceded to their hosts from EBAC Northern League Division One.

A 10th-minute Scott Gunn goal followed by the loss midway through the first half of key striker Freddie Potter to a calf injury, left the Linnets up against it even more.

But after looking decidedly disjointed early on, largely due to the many enforced positional changes, Runcorn came out for the second half much more like themselves.

Paul Shanley was sent sprawling by 'keeper Stefan Holden’s challenge and Stuart Wellstead’s spot kick was kept out – so too was Mitch Bryant’s follow-up effort.

But in tough conditions, heavy rain adding to a very blustery wind, Linnets kept going to grab a 76th-minute equaliser.

Wellstead's initial shot was blocked but Mark Houghton was on hand to bundle the ball across the line.

Extra time went unrewarded for both sides. and the sides replay at The Millbank Linnets Stadium tonight, kick off at 7.45pm.

Runcorn Linnets: Terry Smith, Matt Atherton, Chris Lawton, Jimmy Moore, Danny O’Brien, Michael Simpson, Paul Shanley, Stuart Wellstead, Freddie Potter, Mitch Bryant, Mark Houghton (capt). Subs: Adam Jones, Michael Ellison. Not used: Matt Cross, Danny Salt.

Attendance: 88.