North West Counties League Premier Division
MAINE ROAD 2 RUNCORN TOWN 0
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea 70p
Weather: Fair, bright start, clouded over a bit
Parking: Club car park
I'd been looking forward to this game all week. A real top of the table clash. Maine Road held second spot with Runcorn Town picking up speed in third. It was a nailed-on North West Counties League feast of football. The feast turned out to be nothing more than a dodgy takeaway, one that makes you sick in the morning, neither side played as well as they can do, Maine Road just about did enough on the day but Runcorn Town strangely failed to get going. With a good few games being postponed during the morning due to waterlogging, Maine Roads Brantingham Road pitch was a picture of perfection, flat as a pancake with a nice even covering of grass, it looked like they'd bought it from Carpet World, all the more puzzling why Runcorn Town in particular struggled to play their normal passing football. Maine Road are one of those charismatic little clubs who portray the special side of non league, they have a spick and span tidy little ground with a support of no nonsense regulars cheering on some very good young players, having been beaten 3-0 at Runcorn Towns ground recently, this game was going to be a stern test for the Road team but they certainly rose to the occasion with an obvious battling spirit.They never let Town settle into the game, Road were hustling and bustling in defence and very quick going forward, the young lady referee had a tough task to control a tense and niggly first half but she coped well under the circumstances. Maine Road got the all important breakthrough with an 18th minute Tom Bailey penalty. Towns colossal defender Tom Spearitt made an excellent tackle as Road burst into the box, the ball bobbled free and fellow defender Danny Toone was deemed to have fouled in the resulting scramble, 1-0 to Maine Road.
The home side became even more resolute, they were first to the ball and Runcorns plan to play Phil Howard up front on his own was having little effect on the proceedings. Phil never got the quality supply of ball from midfield, it always seemed at least 3 big defenders were surrounding him which made it hard to understand why Town started lumping balls towards him down the middle. The lone forward got a terrible kicking throughout the afternoon via some clinical but well disguised defensive play which the referee failed to spot all afternoon. No wonder Phil was visibly annoyed at the lack of protection.
Half time mercifully gave everyone a welcome break from the very scrappy and fragmented proceedings, the subdued Runcorn supporters, who had travelled down the M56 in good numbers, ambled back to the clubhouse, I followed them down towards the tea hut and got a hot cup of tea, it had been a dogs ear of a first half, especially for Runcorn Town, I simply didn't have the enthusiasm for the offer of a steaming bowl of the well advertised chilli hot pot. Surely things could only get better in the second period? Unfortunately they didn't.
Apart from Scott Burton who played extremely well in an overrun midfield Runcorn Town just couldn't get out of the inside lane, there were gearbox problems all over the pitch, Maine Road kept it simple, hogged the pitch and got home first with plenty to spare. Tom Bailey got a well worked second goal in the 69th minute and from there on-in it was curtains. A tremendous result for Maine Road and their supporters, an extremely negative day at the office for Runcorn Town, the first defeat in 16 league games if I'm not mistaken? The day was made worse by Padiham strengthening top spot via a fine away win at Glossop. Town will bounce back from this, of that there is no doubt, that objective starts next Saturday when they are at home to bottom side Stone Dominoes. I can sense that a Perfect Storm may be heading for the Dominoes table next weekend? Bring it on!