the real fa cup

Linnets 1 Maine Road 1

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Richard Knowles visits Runcorn Linnets for The Real FA Cup

Following the epic FA Cup journey last season raising money for Cancer Research UK with Runcorn2wembley, I felt it fitting to once again to return to where the campaign began, Runcorn Linnets. Two differences were my trip to the opening round of the 2010/11 FA Cup campaign would take me to Runcorn Linnets’ new ground and it was purely for pleasure.

My baby daughter, Poppy, born less than three weeks ago, means watching live football is very much a privilege and I was looking forward to watching the team where Runcorn2wembley began, play another team the campaign reached during its journey.

Rain gave way to sunshine and familiar faces greeted me as I entered the Linnets’ new arena, something many people had worked tirelessly for many years to achieve. A superb crowd of 453 welcomed the teams onto the almost perfect green grass as young and old cheered.

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Runcorn and Maine Road know each other well, playing in the Vodkat Premier League, but familiarity didn’t breed contempt as both sides probed for openings in the first half. The visitors defended stoutly, but on more than one occasion thanked lady luck for not conceding, none more so than when a cross eluded everyone but was ‘shinned’ off the line by a Maine Road defender and dribbled just passed the post.

But goals win games and with the first half drawing to a close Maine Road mounted a number of threatening attacks. Despite Linnets’ keeper pulling off two great saves the visitors took the lead with a close range effort from Matt Struminskyj. Despite this setback and spurred on by the partisan crowd, Runcorn levelled on half time through a strike Alan Shearer would have salivated at. Matty Atherton fired into the top right hand corner of the net from 20 yards out. The half time whistle enabled the players to draw breath even if the fans didn’t appreciate it.

A quick pie and drink then the second half was underway, with Runcorn continuing to dominate without finding the killer final pass or little bit of luck in front of goal. Numerous attacking forays by Runcorn resulted in a combination of frantic defending, goalmouth scrambles and poor shooting as Maine Road held on.

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With time running out and tiredness setting in to both sets of players, the game opened up with both goalkeepers called into action on more than one occasion. The final ten minutes saw Runcorn lay siege to Maine Road’s goal but unable to find the second goal that would have taken the home side into the next round of The FA Cup.

So both teams can get to know each other further on Tuesday night in the replay. Once again sunshine, great fans and a brilliant display of football made me realise it’s the lower leagues of the football pyramid that provide as much entertainment, if not more, than the Premiership.

Same again next year? Definitely.

Words & Pictures by Richard Knowles

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