RUNCORN Linnets continued their good form into 2018 winning their seventh consecutive game 4-0 against Winsford United.

There was an element of surprise when the pitch was declared playable after more wet weather, the St Luke’s Barton Stadium having lost a number of games to the elements recently.

Credit must go to Winsford’s volunteers for preparing a pitch which held up remarkably.

A trio of “accumulated bookings” suspensions mean that Linnets had to make a few changes before travelling south to Winsford.

Kieran Nolan, Kyle Hamid and Paul Shanley were replaced by Michael Simpson, Mark Houghton and Stuart Wellstead.

The impact was felt the most in midfield, with the naturally attack-minded Kris Holt dropping into the anchor position usually held by Nolan, and centre forward Mark Houghton taking up one of the more forward midfield positions.

Both players performed admirably in unfamiliar surroundings.

Adam Jones kept his place at left back after an impressive display against Hanley Town.

It didn't take long for the Linnets to force the initiative.

With eight minutes gone, neat play between Anthony Hickey and Freddie Potter set Stuart Wellstead up to open the scoring from 12 yards.

A plethora of chances came and went for the Linnets in the next 20 minutes as they backed Winsford into a corner from which they were unable to escape.

The pressure became too much for Winsford in the 35th minute when Potter was bundled over from behind in the box, a clear penalty being awarded by the referee to limited protests from the hosts in blue.

Danny O'Brien stood up to find the top corner with a great penalty which beat the goalkeeper with ease, despite him guessing the right way.

As football goes at times, it was from a period of sustained Winsford pressure that the Linnets scored their third goal to effectively secure the victory.

Early in the second half, Potter showed great pace on a left-wing break away and kept his composure to drill a low cross that took Winsford's defence and goalkeeper out of the game.

Hickey, at the far post, was in position to convert into an empty net.

Even with a continually mountainous task, Winsford still refused to give up and almost pulled a goal back with a far-post header from close range. Matt Holmes did brilliantly to save and hold on to the effort low down.

The goal of the game came with 15 minutes remaining.

Potter caught his first-time volley perfectly, sweeping the strike with immense force off the inside of Green's left post and it eventually nestled in the opposite corner after hovering over the goal line; a fantastic finish by a forward in fine form and full of confidence.

Still Winsford refused to roll over and surrender and they were correctly awarded a penalty of their own in the closing stages.

The penalty was well struck towards Holmes’ bottom-left corner, but Linnets don't concede goals lightly and Holmes made a magnificent save at full stretch to turn the ball around the post.

The last notable action of the afternoon was a mass melee of players – an incident that seemed to come out of nowhere in what had been a very timid affair up to that point.

Holmes’ penalty save also keeps going an impressive run of defending with only two goals conceded in the last seven games - ten and a half hours of football!