A sensational Ryan Brooke free-kick and Jamie Rainford’s penalty secured a comeback victory for Runcorn Linnets who kept the heat on in the playoffs race.
Dave Wild’s side shrugged off their FA Trophy disappointment against Spennymoor Town behind them – as they were edged out 3-2 in the North East – with a deserved win over the 10 men of the Silkmen.
Despite withstanding a number of sieges during their tepid start, the league leaders were in front at the break. James Berry’s corner was drilled towards the back post and met by the former Lancaster City defender who headed past Danny Taberner after losing his marker.
The opening half-an-hour saw the hosts fly out of the traps. Liverpool loanee Marcelo Pitaluga frustrated the Linnets attack as both Rainford and Eden Gumbs forced the Brazilian into smart saves.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the South American as he was targeted by Runcorn Linnets’ physicality from set-pieces and their efforts almost paid off after the 19-year-old failed to claim through a sea of bodies. A Linnets head met the corner but captain Laurent Mendy was on hand to head away.
McNabb’s side failed to find their rhythm in the opening exchanges but did eventually put pressure on the hosts. Berry forced Taberner into an important save after being threaded through but the shot-stopper made a crucial fingertips save.
On the stroke of half-time, the balance was tipped in favour of the home side when Kane Drummond was sent for an early bath on his Macclesfield debut.
Referee Barry Lamb rushed over to the scene and brandished a red card after the former Warrington Rylands striker was adjudged to have endangered Sean O’Mahony.
Brooke and Rainford lead the line for Runcorn Linnets, and the division’s top goalscorer won the free-kick immediately after the break. It was his strike-partner, Brooke, who pulled Wild’s side level on 47 minutes when he curled a free-kick past Pitaluga.
The league leaders were far from out of it and they landed a number of warning shots on the hosts. Tarberner was on hand to deny Berry again before a flurry of chances – including a save from Linnets’ number one – kept the visitors at bay after two blocks on the line.
Rainford soon got in the act and made it double-figures in the Northern Premier League West for the campaign from the penalty spot.
Oladapo Olarewaju was tripped in the box but it was the number nine who calmly sent the makeshift goalkeeper – after Pitaluga limped off on 60 minutes – the wrong way.
There was still time for the visitors to threaten the hosts and snatch a point. Berry’s free-kick rattled the post from the edge of the area.
But Runcorn Linnets held on to give themselves a four-point cushion in the playoffs. The Silkmen remain top, four points clear of Mossley – who have a game in hand.
Runcorn Linnets 2-1 Macclesfield FC
Goals: 47′ Ryan Brooke, 70′ Jamie Rainford (pen); 37′ Lewis Fensome
HT/FT Score: 0-1/2-1