Andrew’s Match Preview
Runcorn Linnets v Colne
APEC Taxis Stadium
Saturday 1st October - 15:00
Colne travel to the APEC Taxis Stadium in Cheshire to take on last season’s play-off finalists Runcorn Linnets, on their “hybrid grass” pitch.
Runcorn Linnets finished in 4th place in the NPL West last season, their highest ever league position in their 16 year history. In the head to head with the Reds, Thomas Lloyd Marsh-Hughes’ goal at Holt House, cancelled out a Reece Webb-Foster opener in a 1-1 draw last January. The return fixture in April, produced a goalless draw watched by over 1000 supporters. This season, the Linnets are sitting in 5th spot with 11 points from 7 games. After an average start, Runcorn have now hit their stride with 4 wins out of the last 6 in all competitions. A 3-1 victory on the opening day of the season at home to Widnes was followed by a 1-0 loss at Mossley. No goals in the home draw against Hanley Town and a 1-0 defeat at Prescot Cables left Linnets in 12th place, but a 1-0 home victory over Witton Albion, a 4-1 thumping of Skelmersdale United away, and a 1-1 draw at home to Bootle on Tuesday evening, have seen Runcorn climb into the play-off places.
In the cup comps in 22/23, Linnets have had a mixed bag. In the FA Cup preliminary round, a 2-1 win away at Trafford meant they had to travel to NPL Premier side Marske United in the next round, and it was the higher league opposition who prevailed 2-1. The FA Trophy has proved more successful with two excellent 2-1 away wins at Workington and North Shields. They have been rewarded with a home tie against Ossett United next Saturday in the 3rd qualifying round.
Runcorn Linnets players to watch - Former Chester and Halifax Town attacker Jamie Rainford has returned to the club as assistant player-manager. He’s hit the ground running and scored 6 times in all competitions so far. Summer signing Sidi Sanogo Fofana has joined from Macclesfield, and has been an ever present so far this season, in central midfield. Defender, and club captain James Short, is in his 3rd season at the club, after gaining plenty of experience at Marine and Witton Albion. 22 year old Preston North End Academy product Lewis Doyle had a spell with Accrington Stanley before signing for Atherton Collieries. A holding midfielder, he joined the Linnets last season and is well regarded. New keeper Danny Taberner is a former Liverpool triallist, and had EFL experience with Rochdale. Last season he was playing in the NPL Premier with Atherton Collieries, but was snapped up by Runcorn in the summer. The Linnets are now managed by former Mossley manager and Matlock number two, Dave Wild. He replaced Calum McIntyre, who left to take over at National league North club Chester in May.
Last time out for the Reds - Once again it was a tough afternoon for Colne last Saturday in the FA Trophy 2nd qualifying round, at home to Consett AFC. Matty Kardacz returned in defence, which allowed Tom Fagan to move to the right flank and Tom McCann then took up his more natural role in central midfield.
The Reds bossed the first half playing down hill, and after a quarter of an hour, their possession was rewarded with the opener. Tom Fagan’s pass from the right, found Owen Watkinson, who scored his trademark precision goal, across the keeper into the corner. The Steelmen had more possession in the second half, but it was Craig Carney who nearly doubled Colne’s advantage, when his shot rattled the crossbar on the hour mark. A few minutes later however, a corner for Consett was headed towards the corner of the goal by Zac Atkinson, but Andre Mendes got down to make an excellent save. Skipper Paul Dugdale then blocked a sure equaliser from Darren Holden’s strike 6 yards out, and in the final minute, substitute Charlie Russell cleared a Ben Milburn effort off the line, and the Reds saw the game out. An away tie at Hyde United await Colne in the 3rd qualifying round next Saturday.
Who’s on Ashh’s couch? - Goalkeeper Hakan Burton’s shoulder injury is worse than first thought and he likely to be out for the season. Harry Winstanley is ready to start his rehab and he’ll need 4-6 weeks before his return. Ellis Wallbank is off his crutches, and he’s walking fine; no training just yet, but he could be back in around 3 weeks.
Team news - Goalkeeper Andre Felipe da Silva Mendes has extended his loan from Morecambe until the end of December, and 19 year old Oliver Lombard has signed for the club as the number 2 keeper. Left footed midfielder Oliver Roberts has returned to the club from Atherton Collieries; he should go straight into the squad, and another new signing former Man City schoolboy, striker Kyobe McDaniel could make the bench. Charlie Russell is likely to get more minutes to improve his sharpness and fitness from the bench also. Phil Brown will have to choose between Matty Kardacz and Tom Fagan for the third centre back role. Colne currently sit in 16th place in the table with 8 points from 7 games.
With 4 out of 5 victories in September, the Reds should be unfazed travelling to meet the Linnets who themselves have won 3 out of 5, with a draw, and their only loss coming away at higher league opposition. This will be only Colne’s 3rd away league game this term with the other 2 games ending in draws. A creditable performance in the FA Cup loss at Clitheroe, was bettered with the 2-1 win at Bridlington in the FA Trophy. The Linnets have won 2 and drawn 2 at home so far this season and had a terrific home record last term. Bootle grabbed a point in midweek in Runcorn, but the Linnets were reduced to 10 men after 52 minutes, when leading. With both sides finding some form it’s likely that another tough tussle will ensue. The battle of the midfield, is probably the place where the game could be won or lost, with Doyle and Fofana central in a 442 formation for the home side, taking on Carney, Knox and McCann for the Reds with returnee Oli Roberts an alternative. Although Runcorn reached the play off final last season, the summer wasn’t kind to them, after losing their manager, and free scoring players Ryan Brooke and Iwan Murray, who between them scored 53 goals. The two clubs drew both games against each other in 21/22, and a point for the Reds would be another step forward for Phil Brown’s young lions.
Admission Prices are:
Adults - £10
Concessions - £7
Under 18’s - Free
Full match commentary on Linnets live radio
APEC Taxis Stadium
Sat 8th October - Hyde United v Colne - 15:00 FA Trophy
Sat 15th October - Colne v Prescot Cables - 15:00 NPL West
Sat 22nd October - Colne v Skelmersdale United - 15:00 NPL West
Today’s other NPL West games - 15:00
1874 Northwich v Skelmersdale United
City of Liverpool v Trafford
Glossop North End v Ramsbottom
Kidsgrove Athletic v Witton Albion
Macclesfield v Bootle
Mossley v Widnes
Prescot Cables v Newcastle Town
Workington v Leek Town