RUNCORN scaled the Pennines for a rare away appearance in yellow and green, the now customary away kit providing a direct clash with Brighouse Town’s orange and black, writes David Davies.

It would be an interesting fixture for a number of reasons. The first meeting between the two in late November started an impressive sequence of results for Linnets, the first of four straight league wins

which had since become six in an unbeaten run of eight. It had catapulted them up the table to pose a threat to the play-off places.

But the 1-0 result at The Millbank told little of the story. The only goal came from a Louis Corrigan penalty after 35 minutes, faced by defender Reece Gaskell after ’keeper Jordan Porter had been

dismissed for bringing down Paul Shanley in the area, an outcome which we thought had been eliminated by a new ‘double jeopardy’ law.

Makeshift custodian Gaskell went on to play a blinder, and for the 40 minutes that Linnets had a one-man advantage, until Ryan Gibson also received a soft

red card, Brighouse were arguably the better side.

A carbon copy of that unusual encounter wouldn’t occur on Saturday, as neither Porter nor Gaskell were

present, the former having just been given a three-match ban for his remonstrations with the referee that night.

It was Runcorn players who would repeatedly vocalise their

displeasure with the referee on this occasion, Jamie Rhodes.

There were a number of decisions it would have been interesting to ask him about, including his failure to reduce Brighouse to ten men for the last hour.

But in truth, King Solomon could have officiated and Linnets' unbeaten run of eight games would still have come to an end.

Porter’s place in goal was taken by newcomer Matt Smith, and the day’s most

telling fact was that it was the 70th minute before he had anything to do, apart from taking the occasional goal-kick.

The outcome was decided by two goals four minutes apart, interrupted by half-time.

A fierce wind from end to end, which eased slightly in the second half to accommodate lashing rain, made precision passing nigh-on impossible, and long balls were either returned to sender or would have outpaced Usain Bolt.

It was the same for both sides, however, and the hosts dealt with the conditions in both directions considerably better than their visitors.

Against the typhoon, an unchanged Linnets line-up from the turnaround victory over Mossley seven days earlier took eight minutes before entering the Brighouse half with the ball, and the most meaningful activity for both sides in the first quarter-hour was debating whose throw-in it was.

Liam Caddick turned inside from the touchline, but despite his being gripped in a

full-nelson by debutant right-back Jay Benn, Mr Rhodes saw no foul.

On 24 minutes, he did award a free-kick for Ousman Cham’s late tackle on Connor McCarthy. Louis Corrigan curled it into the

six-yard box, Town left-back Reece Kendall heading clear as he would do many more times - although he did appear to push McCarthy in the back to get there.

Just past the half hour, a controversy arose which would hang over the rest of the match. A crunching tackle on Kyle Hamid inside the Brighouse half could be heard in every corner of the ground.

The Runcorn skipper required lengthy attention, and it seemed like an age that the surely inevitable red card for Thomas Haigh was awaited.

Instead, the referee showed Haigh yellow, the same punishment was meted out to Runcorn's Scott Lycett for his reaction to the foul.

The incident might be regarded as a turning point, given that ten minutes later eleven-man Brighouse opened the scoring, and Haigh went on to score their second before being voted his team’s man of the


The opener came a minute before half time when an apparently clean, ball-winning tackle on Ousman Cham 22 yards from goal was deemed a foul.

Despite Brighouse No10 Shiraz Khan standing illegally in the defensive

wall, Reece Kendall despatched an unstoppable free-kick into the top of the net.

With the wind behind them, Linnets had the first attack of the second half, Louis Hayes running wide through the left side of the penalty area and trying but failing to gain a deflection for a corner.

Moments later, at the other end, the Runcorn defence was caught making too many passes across their own third. The ball was lost, and two attempts were blocked before Haigh netted from the third, with Emery off his line.

Growing discontent with Mr Rhodes’ decision making earned Connor McCarthy a yellow card, after he had been penalised for pushing when winning a loose ball on the edge of the Town area.

The sense of injustice was palpable, but it has to be acknowledged that when Matt Smith made his first save of the game, diving bravely at the feet of Ryan Gibson, there were only twenty minutes


It wasn’t his last, however. Two minutes later, a push on Caddick outside the right corner of the penalty area was recognised.

Louis Corrigan’s left wand sent the kick exactly where we knew it would, towards the far top corner, but Smith made a fine save to palm it over the bar.

Louis delivered again from the corner, short into the six-yard box, where sub Alex O’Neill met it perfectly first time; a certain goal if Jay Benn hadn’t cemented an excellent debut by diverting it from point-blank range past the post.

Linnets hadn’t delivered nearly enough quality, and mounting frustration didn’t help, but as ever there was no lack of application. .

Louis Corrigan collected a yellow card for a foul on halfway, and the compliment was returned with a caution for sub Clarke for a two-footed lunge on the Linnets left-back.

Added time loomed when the home side should have made it 3-0. A three-man move left sub Rawson with only Emery to beat, but he scuffed it wide of the post.

If the strange refereeing decisions had been shared out, it might have been a draw. If they had gone as consistently in the opposite direction, Linnets would probably have secured a seventh win in nine unbeaten games.

That fact calls for a dose of realism. Three games in the run of eight had delivered seven points for a team that couldn’t claim to have been better on the day. Others had brought only a narrow win when they had clearly dominated. Swings and roundabouts.

One of few causes for celebration on the day was the presence on the bench of Linnets legend Michael Simpson, after a seemingly endless absence through injury and surgery.

His first touch will receive an ovation, even if he gives the ball away.

Next stop Colne, Saturday 18th January, kick-off 3pm, when it is to be hoped it won’t be blowing a gale down the mountain.

Linnets fans will be thinking a repeat of last season’s 6-1 triumph would be a nice start to another winning run.

Runcorn Linnets: Michael Emery, Louis Corrigan, Declan Gallagher, Scott Lycett, Ally Brown, Louis Hayes (Alex O’Neill 66), Tom Owens (Zac Aley 57), Kyle Hamid, Connor McCarthy, Liam Caddick, Ryan Gibson (Kurt Sherlock 78). Subs not used: Jack Hinnigan, Michael Simpson.

Attendance: 225.