AFC Liverpool 1-2 Runcorn Linnets

Firstly, to start with the opposition, congratulations to Runcorn Linnets. They arrived to the Marine Travel Arena as worthy champions and for the opening 45 minutes were a level above all over the pitch. Victory saw them hit the 100 point mark after recently gaining promotion and then winning the title this week and with a game still to play this points tally is an amazing achievement. To also score the most goals and have the leanest defence in the league is an indication of the balance and consistency of the side this season.

In that context then and against such opposition, it is testament to the AFC Liverpool players to go in at the break two goals down, brush themselves off and put in the kind of second half performance that they did.

The visitors started the game really well, full of confidence as you’d expect and showed no sign of any lack of ruthlessness just because the title was secure. The Reds struggled to deal with the movement of Mitchell Bryant and Louis Corrigan and Stuart Wellstead proved a handful in the early exchanges.

Linnets forced a corner and pushed numbers up in the box to attack it, the cross was well delivered in towards a dangerous area and Wellstead was too strong for his marker heading home from just a few yards out. The striker put his side ahead after just 12 minutes and a long afternoon looked on the cards for The Reds.

The visitors pushed for a second and played some really quality stuff as the half went on, Bryant in particular again providing moments of brilliance almost scoring from nothing before putting the ball on a plate for skipper Kyle Hamid, who came close to doubling Linnets lead.

Bryant would eventually get a goal in the 36th minute after Wellstead forced a good stop from keeper Jack Ferguson. Ferguson palmed the ball against the crossbar but Bryant followed the ball in and nodded over the line from close range.

AFC Liverpool trailed by two goals to nil at half time and had to defend extremely well at times for it not to be much more.

The Reds looked a different side after the restart though, the change in fortunes linked strongly to the introduction of Elliott Nevitt but not exclusively because of that. The lads just clicked better, were more composed in possession and players began to express themselves and so began creating more for each other.

The forward line were also much sharper, taking only one or two touches when in the first half it was three or four and The Reds enjoyed a good spell and were unlucky not to cut the visitors lead in half. A perfectly weighted ball from midfield was latched on to by Anthony Lyons who took a good first touch and lobbed the ball over Dylan Forth. The ball travelled for a lifetime before striking the post and landing to Callum Schorah just yards out but Linnets had bodies back and with Forth on the line the effort was well blocked and cleared from danger – you can see how this side had only conceded 34 goals in 43 games in the league.

Enter Elliott Nevitt to make that 35… The striker picked up the ball out wide, dropped his shoulder and shifted on to his strong foot before absolutely smashing the ball from just inside the area right into the roof of the net in the 70th minute.

The visitors began to play more on the counter now as AFC Liverpool retained the ball much better and gave the Linnets back line more to do as the half wore on. Good pressure from Schorah, Zach Hardacre and Lyons forced mistakes from the visitors defence and could have led to an equaliser if not for the referee’s whistle after Schorah slotted home following a goal mouth scramble. A couple of players were left in a heap and the visitors were awarded a free kick.

Linnets too had a disallowed goal in this period to remind The Reds, if they needed it, that this was a quality side with the potential to hurt you at any time. The introduction of Freddie Potter gave the AFC back line another head ache and on another day the prolific striker could have bagged himself a brace. Potter almost turned home a good whipped free kick with his first touch and minutes later forced a brilliant stop from Ferguson to keep The Reds within a goal of their opponents.

In the closing minutes, AFC Liverpool did all they could to grab a point but Runcorn Linnets managed the game well and in the end just about had too much.

Congratulations again then to Runcorn Linnets and the best of luck for next season in the Evo-Stik North.

For these lads then the mission for Monday is the exact same as it has been for the last couple of weeks.

Just. Win.

One game left to play and a win would do it. Any of the other outcomes across the games involving the other sides around may also do it but this outcome, an AFC Liverpool win, barring a mathematical disaster, would definitely do it. If the lads play on Monday like they did in the second half then they have nothing and nobody to fear.

Charnock Richard – Bank Holiday Monday 3 o’clock. As big a game as any this club has had to play in its existence. Be there, for these lads, for yourselves, to kick every ball with them as you have every step of the way during this most difficult of seasons.

Up the down to the wire Reds.

Match Attendance: 244

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