PLAYING their first game for three weeks, St Helens Town started slowly against a Runcorn Linnets side who were riding on the crest of a wave. The contrast in confidence and match fitness was clear to see, Town being unable to clear the ball from their own half of the field on a dry but uneven surface for almost all the first half of the game, whereas Runcorn were seemingly encamped in the visitors’ penalty area for long spells, forcing the Town defence into a series of errors.
Ross McDowell went close for Linnets on 16 minutes, but within a minute, the home side had the lead, Kyle Hamid scoring from the penalty spot after Town skipper Lee Crompton brought down McDowell. Town fought back and Shaun Judge brought the best out of his namesake in the Runcorn goal with a stunning shot on 21 minutes.
Town found themselves 2-0 down after 25 minutes when Gavin Salmon rounded Lee Novak and placed the ball in the empty net then five minutes later, the same player headed in from a corner, catching the St. Helens defence napping to stretch the lead to three goals. It appeared to be a case of how many goals the home side were going to win by but, right on half-time, Chris Lomax crossed from out wide to enable Phil Williams to slot home from close range in the packed home box to give Town hope at 3-1.
Just after half-time, Town had a couple of clear chances, which the home keeper was relieved to keep out, the best falling to Lomax who should have netted with only the ‘keeper to beat. St. Helens had the majority of the second half chances and it was against the run of play when Linnets restored their three goal cushion after 54 minutes when Lee Novak failed to hold a rasping shot and McDowell tapped in the rebound to make it 4-1.
Town continued to press and having introduced three substitutes, Charles Stoker, Cole Ashton and Dale Woods, Stoker’s fine run on goal was halted only by a foul from keeper Adam Judge and Shaun Judge netted from the penalty spot with eight minutes remaining. Try as they might, Town could not reduce the deficit any further.
Town will be looking to build on their encouraging second-half performance as they reach half-way in their NW Counties campaign, with 15 of their final 20 games at home following next Saturday’s trip to Glossop. Their next home game is on Tuesday, 12 February, when Wigan Robin Park visit Edge Green Street.