Runcorn Town 1 County 4 ( Cheshire Senior Cup QF) 16 February 2015

County swept into the last four in the Cheshire Senior Cup, with a good 4-1 win against a very decent Runcorn Town side last night.
Rules is rules......thus A.L., with another crucial match at Bradford on Wednesday, had to field his first teamers, or sufficient of same to stay within said rules. He did this magnificently and they rewarded him with a  performance that sent the County contingent in  a crowd of around 150 home happy.
Runcorn made a good game of it particularly in the first half, kept their discipline admirably and never resorted to the sort of none tactics relied on when all was lost in the last round by our last opponents in this competition. I can hardly remember a foul, by either side, in the whole match actually!
For County, the goals came from Sharp( 2) who was busy all night , Spencer and Wilkinson, and the latter was truly top class when he came on after the break. Others shone too.....Hancock and Todd particularly at the back, both coolness personified, whilst Russell and Ryan were .....well.....Russell and Ryan!
With a front three of Sharp, Spencer and Ryan, there was always going to be a chance that County would create an opening or two, and so it was as Ryan  brought a couple of early saves from keeper Hayden Buckley-Smith.
The first ten minutes did not solely consist of County on the attack.....there was work for Todd and Hancock, the most experienced of the County outfield defenders on show, to do. They did their work well, and they had Andy Potter, and Chris Lester were buzzing at this stage. So was  Mark Keddie, and he almost caught Ian Ormson out with a cheeky lob from way out, smack on the 10 minute mark.      
It looked like being an interesting encounter, as Ormson then showed us a cheeky lob of his own, and Ryan was the proverbial whisker from putting it away as the ball bounced inside the Town box- Buckley-Smith won this encounter as well!
Hancock did well to stop Ross Davies next, and within a minute County were ahead, as Todd picked Sharp out with a neat through ball, and he responded with the fiercest of drives that almost took the keepers hands off as it crashed into the net! That was a real belter!

Sharp opens the scoring ( pic by Kevin Lee)

Runcorn were stung into action immediately as Grant and Keddie took the game to County, but both found Hancock in top form and able to clear without too much difficulty.

Tom Spearitt on the ball....

 Next.....Paul Shanley and Grant  had runs curtailed by Elliot Dickson, County`s captain, who had a decent game alongside the dependable Hancock, but at the other end Buckley-Smith was in great form tipping a shot from Baker out miraculously, after the County man had been set up by a Spencer cross.

Paul Shanley receives treatment.

With Darren Kinsey and Mark Keddie to the fore, Runcorn continued to make a good contest of it, and it took more good work from Hancock, and a save by Ormson from Kinsey`s shot, to keep it at 1-0 as we passed the half hour mark.
Whilst Runcorn were definitely still in this.....there were those around me who wondered why, as Spencer had come close maybe three times in a 15 minute period running up to the break. The target wasn`t hit with any of these, admittedly largely half chances.

Toddy to the fore.......
Lofthouse did better- seeing his shot charged down after good play from Ryan and Sharp, and Ryan did better still ....his shot thudding into a post with the keeper beaten in the dying embers of the half.
But....despite pressing relentlessly in the final minutes of the half it stayed 1-0, and the first action upon the re-start saw Shanley in on goal for Town. He dragged his shot wide, but already the thought beckoned that County had a real fight on their hands here!

Lofthoues & Wilkinson look on as Town attack.
Wilkinson was now on, having replaced Ryan, for County, but the early minutes of the second half saw a series of probing balls test the metal of the County back line.  They looked up to the job, nicely aided by Sharp who gave us the first of a series of headed clearances from a free kick. Russell meanwhile found time for a shot that climbed a foot or so over the bar.
Slowly.... with Wilkinson`s hand on the tiller, County were beginning to put some moves together, but a neat combo twixt Spencer and Lofthouse floundered on the rock of Baker`s slow reactions.
No matter ....things were stirring and Buckley-Smith did well to keep a strike by Wilkinson out just after the hour.

Churchman .....on for Baker.
With Churchman on for Baker, County redoubled their efforts and within a couple of minutes of the personnel change, County doubled their advantage, and it was the relentlessly busy Sharp who started it, with a run to the by-line. Once there.....a swift turn saw him send a nicely weighted ball into the crowded box where substitute Lee Roberts almost hurried it into his own net. He didn`t....but the ball came back out off the bar to Spencer who buried a fierce drive into the net via the back post!
That was a relief, but within 5 minutes County added another, and once more it originated in a Sharp run, that took him into the box where he was denied by brave work from keeper Buckley-Smith. The keeper was unlucky however as the ball ran clear to Wilkinson on the edge of the box and he made no mistake sending a meticulously measured lob way beyond the keeper`s groping arms into the net.
Joe Noblett came on for Russell with under 20 minutes left, Charlie departing with a hopeful drive that carried the bar.    
Great credit goes to Town, who even now kept plugging away, and twice in a short period Sharp was in position to head out from under the bar as corners whizzed over!
It was at the other end however that I fancied that any further goals would come, and whilst Todd was disappointed to see his shot thud into the chest of the keeper, after good work by Churchman, it was not long before County added a fourth!
This one had Wilkinson`s mark on it, and a slide rule pass from him sent Spencer scurrying clear. A shot followed but Buckley-Smith kept it out......he could only parry it however and ....following up hungrily.....Sharp hurried the ball home!
That was good, and might have been even better, but for Buckley-Smith, who did really well to get to Wilkinson`s shot, pushing the ball around the post with 8 minutes remaining of the game.

County were motoring now..... a Sharp header.....Lofthouse shot, all tested Buckley-Smith`s resolve, but the ball simply would not cross his line again, despite a scare or three- another diving save , from a Wilkinson shot, earning the keeper rich applause .
Then with a minute left Runcorn clawed one back, and the honours fell to Grant who took his chance well sending his drive past the unsuspecting Ormson from outside the box.
If it was a disappointment for County to concede one it was hard not to think that Town deserved it, indeed they did their best in added time to embarrass County further Chris`s Thompson and Dykes both going close late on!
Game over...... County into the semi finals.....job done!
It was raining quite hard now ,as I left for the return trip on the Flyer, but spirits were high......I had thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Runcorn, as I hope the German blogger BNSB,  who was at the game, did as well. The locals were friendly, the stadium offered cover and seating aplenty and decent food too, so good luck to Town for the rest of the season
Footnote......County could do worse than sort a pre-season friendly against Town( and its not just that I want another of those meat and potato pies that I say this!). Meanwhile onwards in the Cheshire Senior Cup...draw Wednesday I hear!

County line up:

Ormson, Todd, Hancock, Dickson, Hughes, Russell ( Noblett 72), Baker ( Churchman 64), Lofthouse, Ryan( Wilkinson 45), Sharp, Spencer.

Subs not used:


Runcorn Town line up:

Buckley-Smith, Lester( Roberts 36), Kinsey, Spearitt, Gibson, Dykes( Cummings 55) , Shanley, Keddie, Davies, Grant, Potter( Thomson 45).

Subs not used:

Breen, Irlam.

Ian Brown


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