RUNCORN Linnets favourite Danny O'Brien has been awarded Macron Player of the Month in The Hallmark Security League Premier Division.

A common factor in Runcorn Linnets’ rise to the top of The Hallmark Security League Premier Division at new year has been the ever-consistent form of the defender.

The one-time midfield player turned full-back has just kept on producing the goods in his own inimitable style – understated but at the same time spectacular – and club officials had no hesitation in naming him as first-team player of the month for December.

It is not as if there weren’t other strong candidates either.

Attacking midfielder Kris Holt has been a revelation since returning to the Runcorn ranks full-time from dual registration with Atherton Collieries (his hat-trick against Barnton being the obvious highlight) while Kieran Nolan has excelled in the holding role; Freddie Potter came off the bench to score twice in the Runcorn derby win on Boxing Day, promptly adding a further brace to steer the Linnets to 2-0 victory over Hanley Town, while Aaron Morris and Jimmy Moore have cemented an already strong central defensive partnership with three consecutive clean sheet triumphs.

But you just can’t keep a good man down and O’Brien’s nomination completes a straight hat-trick of club player-of-the-month awards for the former Cammell Laird 1907 man to again underline his genuine importance to the team’s on-field strategy and overall performance.

The statistics tell their own tale with O'Brien again proving much more than an excellent defender as the Linnets negotiated a tough Christmas schedule of three league games over the holiday period – including two matches against top-four opposition in four days – with a triple shut out.

O'Brien has again used his set-piece prowess – be it from corners, penalties or free-kicks – to deliver a quartet of important goals in the closing month of 2017, taking his campaign total to eight while remaining highly influential in open play when going forward or covering in defence.

The month did not have the kind of start the Linnets had hoped for as they exited the Buildbase FA Vase at the hands of the highly-rated Ebac Northern League title chasers, Marske United – although not before Linnets had come desperately close to fighting back from 3-0 down to force a replay.

O’Brien netted from the penalty spot in the 74th minute to reduce the arrears to 1-3 and, when Antony Hickey added a Linnets second two minutes later, Marske had to pull out all the stops to cling on for a hard-earned 3-2 victory.

With scheduled contests at home to 1874 Northwich and away against Padiham falling foul of the weather, Linnets had to wait until December 23 for their first league outing of 2017’s final month but they certainly made up for lost time.

O’Brien’s individual progress was checked by a neck injury which led to his 20th minute withdrawal against visiting Barnton but he had already made a mark with another successful spot-kick to put Michael Ellison’s men on course for a comfortable 4-0 win.

He passed a fitness test to play against Runcorn Town on December 26 and his contribution in a 5-0 triumph at Pavilions was immense.

With Linnets already leading 10-man Town, the full-back continued his series of sparkling set-pieces to score direct with a typically accurate and perfectly-flighted 20-yard free-kick, doubling the interval lead at 0-2.

For good measure, O'Brien again converted from the penalty spot, after Stuart Wellstead had been sent tumbling, to make it 0-4.

Such has been his recent productivity in front of goal, it was something of a surprise not to see O'Brien on target again in the 2-0 defeat of Hanley Town at The Millbank Linnets Stadium on the Friday before new year.

However, the primary role of any defender is to defend and O'Brien has shown himself to be more than capable of that.

His alert goal-line clearance, while stationed at a goal post, denied the visitors a ‘certain’ opening goal just before the break and was pivotal to the eventual outcome as the Linnets entered the new year on a high.