Runcorn Linnets book playoff date to end Widnes hopes

Anthony Kay celebrates goal for Runcorn Linnets

Runcorn Linnets secured their place in the Northern Premier League West playoffs with a 3-2 win over Widnes.  

Billy Paynter’s side ensured that they would be in the top five for a third consecutive season with City of Liverpool and Witton Albion set for a showdown on the final day. 

It was the perfect start for the hosts as an unmarked Anthony Kay headed home from Lewis Doyle’s free-kick after just one minute. 

Widnes were slow out of the traps, and should’ve been put to the sword, finding themselves fortunate to go in at the break a goal down. 

Twice the visitors were caught on the counter, Mackenzie O’Neill going agonisingly close only to curl wide before Will Saxon fired the wrong side of the post.  

The beginning of the second-half contrasted to the first with Widnes starting strong. Danger-man Sean Miller lived up to his billing, first forcing a superb finger-tipped save from Harvey Passant. 

However, the midfielder soon got the better of the Linnets goalkeeper in a moment of sheer quality. Sharif Deans’ touch looped up for the Widnes man finding the back of the net with a superb volley past the despairing shot-stopper. 

Paynter and the Linnets defence had Passant to be thankful for shortly after as he scrambled across to deny a certain goal from James Steele. Widnes looked certain to capitalise on the chance after the hosts were dispossessed on the edge of their own box.

But the hosts landed a suckerpunch, against the run of play, as Joseph Thompson scored his first goal for the club. The midfielder ghosted to the wrong side of the Widnes backline and rolled the ball home past Cam Terry. 

Substitute Adam Moseley got a deserved goal and Linnets’ third shortly after. The attacker’s first touch was superb to take it around the Widnes goalkeeper and tapped into the empty net. 

There was still time for a nervy conclusion as Miller added another memorable effort with a superb left-footed volley but it proved to be a mere consolation goal. 


Linnets coming of age

‘Playoffs again, ole, ole’ rang around the APEC Taxis Stadium as Billy Paynter got his players in a huddle after the full-time whistle. 

A strong start in the first-half was followed by a lacklustre display to begin the second. 

For all that Linnets’ second goal was against the run of play, by that point, they should’ve had a three-goal lead. 

Speaking to Off The Park this week, Paynter rued profligacy from his side after squandering chances in their recent outings. However, they put that behind them with Joseph Thompson rolling the ball home, after a third-man run from midfield following a tactical tweak saw him further forward. 

And how fitting that local lad, Adam Moseley, made an impact off the bench and scoring the all-important third.  

What if Widnes?

Old habits die hard and for Widnes, it was the case when it mattered most. 

They were caught napping after just one minute when an unmarked Anthony Kay headed in the opener. 

The Whites were carved open twice in the first-half by a Linnets counter-attack but both times the hosts failed to capitalise. 

Their second-half showing was chalk and cheese compared to what the opening 45 produced. Widnes were quick out of the traps and forced Linnets to endure intense pressure. 

It paid off with a world class volley from Sean Miller. And on a different afternoon, if it wasn’t for an inspired performance between the sticks from Harvey Passant, one could’ve been two but the Linnets shotstopper denied James Steele. 

The late dash for playoffs is now over for Michael Ellison’s side as they dust themselves down to reflect on the campaign. 

Disappointment was etched across the Widnes manager’s face at full-time following the manner of the defeat, but it’s hard to argue the impact he has had since taking over.

In April 2023, Widnes went on a magnanimous run to survive relegation and 12 months on, their playoff hopes were shattered on the penultimate day of the season. 

[Featured image: Neil Phillip Thornton]

For enquiries:

Other Match Reports...