Runcorn Linnets manager Billy Paynter has lauded his players for their unity in a chaotic week that ended with a win over Kidsgrove Athletic.
Lewis Doyle scored the only goal of the game as Linnets continued their push for the playoffs. Their preparations were far from ideal as an incident on the M6 forced the game to be delayed.
As a result, they were almost forced to start the match a man light after traffic congestion scuppered Paynter’s team selection.
The emergence of a defender on the eve of kick-off meant they played with the full complement and thanks to a second-half goal they picked up an important three points.
“Very pleased, it was more pleasing for the lads for the week prior and building up to the game, there was a lot of stuff behind the scenes,” he told Off The Park. “I asked them to pull together, stick together on and off the field then when you are preparing for a game the M6 is shut with half your team stuck.
“I had to make a couple of changes, I didn’t do that because it was a last-minute type of thing, I still made the bold decision because I trust the players.
“The players which come in done fantastic for me, we defended the slope first and in the second-half we were able to play our game and to come away with a 1-0 win, a well-earned win. The lads were buzzing, the changing room afterwards you could still what the week had built up, they really enjoyed the win.
“Any win will boost confidence and galvanise but I think how the game and what we had go through that day meant more. I was prepared to start with 10 once the referee said ‘no, you’ve got the kick-off’, we had one defender arrive in the nick of time so I was able to start with 11. Credit to him, he didn’t have a warm-up, his warm-up was building his way into the game then the subs came in dribs and drabs.”
Going into the final four games of the season, Linnets have one of the toughest run-ins among their rivals. They have a one-point cushion over Witton Albion in the final playoff spot but remain level on points with Clitheroe.
Any negative result could be fatal in their pursuit of playoff football after sitting in the position for the majority of the campaign.
And the importance hasn’t bypassed the Linnets manager who calls their doubleheader on Saturday and Monday against Prescot Cables and City of Liverpool as “make or break”.
He said: “With the teams around us winning, it was vital that we got three points, the playoffs are still in our hands, six points are up for grabs so it’s a make or break little period. This weekend is going to massive for most teams in and around the playoffs I think.”
Their attempts to secure playoff football see them come up against Prescot Cables, a team that overcame them in the early part of the season.
“We have played them twice this year and both games were very difficult, we’ve watched them, they’re aggressive in their pressing, we know it’s going to be a very tough game and we have to be at our very best to try and match them,” he added.
“We started bright in the first-half against them but we just couldn’t finish off our chances, when you can’t finish off those chances it gives the opposition that uplift, it was disappointing we lost that day we felt we could’ve got more out of it.
“We want revenge, we want to win the game and Saturday, a win at Kidsgrove can be a springboard for momentum going into this weekend.
“The games are running out, you want to be in that pack, it’s in our hands so we know what we have to do. We’re not looking at what’s behind us, we know what we do on the pitch, it’s our job in the game. We don’t want to be falling out of the pack then we’re relying on other teams for the results.”