Runcorn Linnets manager Dave Wild has labelled their playoff showdown with Clitheroe as a “big game” and the start of six cup finals.
Three points separate the two sides going into Saturday’s encounter. Despite losing to Macclesfield last week, David Dempsey’s side were held by Prescot Cables as they clawed back a two-goal deficit to earn a point.
The Northern Premier League West season is in its closing stages as Linnets look to cement their place in the playoffs. After a dismal end to last year and start to 2023, they have returned to form and look to finish strongly as they look to go one better than last year.
Clitheroe’s visit sparks the final run-in for Wild’s side as they face three of the top 10 in their last six.
Speaking to Off The Park, Wild said: “It’s a big game. We’re in a lucky position that we’ve managed to build a bit of a gap on them which allows us to draw the game – we’re obviously going to try win the game – but I think the game is a little bit bigger based on the fact they’ve got to close the gap on teams closer to them.
“But it’s a big game, six to go, ultimately that’s why we work so hard to make sure when we get to this stage of the season every game is big and is important. We’ve had a tough run of fixtures, we’re navigating our way through and we have had some missed opportunities before but it’s still in our hands, that’s all we can ask for.
“Six to go, Clitheroe being one, home game, bumper crowd, looking forward to it, should be a good day.
“It’s chaos at the minute, one minute I’m thinking Witton will catch, now I’m thinking Trafford – anything can happen,” he added on the playoff race. “Looking at the teams in the mix, we’ve got a really hard run in, we have to play Prescot, Trafford, Clitheroe and Kidsgrove – they’re all in the mix so we’ve got six cup finals.
“We think we know what points tally we need, we just need to hope that the wobble at Christmas doesn’t undo us and a certainly hope we don’t miss out by a point because what happened at Macclesfield would haunt me forever.”
A last minute penalty earned the Silkmen a valuable three points in their aspirations to win the league. Alex Curran netted his second of the afternoon to deny the visitors a point.
After a slow first-half, Linnets came into their own and Wild came away feeling his side were the better of the two and were unfortunate to come away empty handed.
“I thought we were better than them if I’m being completely honest,” he said. “The first-half we struggled to adapt, I think the occasion, for about half-an-hour, we started to slowly get a grip then they scored. Second-half, no one can tell me otherwise, we were the better team and everyone in Macclesfield is saying the same thing so really proud of the lads, we deserved a point.
“We certainly didn’t deserve to be beaten by a penalty with the last kick of the game, it certainly wasn’t a free-kick that lead to the save that lead to the penalty and I still don’t think it was a penalty till this day.
“Many people will disagree but the liner said that he saw Sean get the ball then their striker’s fan into an outstretched leg. I said it at the time but I’d expect my striker to do the same, it would’ve been a valuable point but performance-wise, it was a positive day and shown how far the club has come. Disappointing but pleased, it was a bit of a strange feeling.”
He added: “Everyone expected us to lose, I don’t look at it as an opportunity missed, I just feel let down by the officials. Certainly the foul for the free-kick is laughable, I’ve seen more strength in my little boy, we’ve drawn a line under it, a great day out for the club and we just have to keep kicking on – six to go.”
In midweek, they booked their place in the Liverpool Senior Cup final – their first chance of cup silverware since 2013. They overcame Steve McNulty’s Bootle side after holding on in normal time with 10-men.
“I don’t care about performances in cup football as long as we go through, I’ve said that pretty much in every round because we’ve been poor in cup competitions this season but we’ve navigated our way to the final and that’s what we’ve set out to do.
“Bootle made quite a lot of changes, we made one or two, we’re in a cup final and that’s what we set out to do when we were put in the cup. I’ve said all season if we’re in a cup this season I want to win it, the Liverpool Senior Cup is no different, it’s one final and we’ve got six games to get into the playoffs and we’ve got another semi-final against Altrincham.
“It’s a great opportunity for the club and hopefully we’ll take a big crowd to the final and put on a show.”