Saturday 11th December
North West Counties League Premier Division
Runcorn Linnets 0 Ramsbottom United 5
Tea hut purchases: Meat & Potato Pie £1.50, Tea 60p
Weather: Light cloud, dry and chilly
Parking: Car park outside the ground, easy exitAfter weeks of arctic temperatures and heaps and heaps of snow some football games took place in the North of England this weekend. There were still plenty of postponements though, the brief thaw couldn't quite get the ice out of the ground for quite a few clubs. I scanned the morning pitch inspections and decided upon an interesting looking match which had been given the go ahead at Runcorn Linnets Millbank Stadium. The visitors were third placed Ramsbottom United. The chance to see Runcorns new ground which opened earlier in the season was incentive enough, some classy football from Ramsbottom would be an added bonus. Runcorn can be a tricky town to navigate but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find the Millbank Stadium, its basically Junction 11 of the M56 and then following the Chester Road for a short while, the ground is south east of the town. One has to remember this is a new ground for a club with North West Counties League status, its a great league but you are not going to find wonderfully designed charismatic stands and terraces, bear that in mind before passing judgment, I've already read some reports from groundhoppers that the Millbank Stadium is boring and characterless. I wouldn't go that far, there aren't that many glorious photo opportunities but the local supporters are a keen bunch and they certainly give it a homely quality. Nice to see some travelling support from Ramsbottom as well. Lets be honest, the recent terrible weather has ravaged the football calendar in this part of the country, I got the impression a good few people were just glad to get to a game today. The ground itself has two structures, the more prominent is the small seated main stand spanning the halfway line, the other is a low covered terrace to one side of the goalposts at the clubhouse end, both structures can be described as the 'flat-pack' variety. Other than this the only other feature is the very solid, very metallic and grey looking steel perimeter fence which runs behind the hard standing walkways around the sides of the pitch, its solid, probably does a good job but it does look a bit 'remand-centre' like.The pitch was in decent order, especially considering the weather and held up well during the game with a pretty level surface. After my pre-match walk around the ground I sampled a very tasty meat and potato pie and a nice cup of tea from the hatch at the back of the setback clubhouse, just what I needed and very reasonably priced as well. Thumbing through the programme it was good to see some match relevant notes from Paul McNally the Manager and 3 pages of history on Ramsbottom United, they even had a picture quiz on one of the pages! Hang on..... I recognise those colour pictures..... I couldn't believe it..... 7 of the 10 pictures they'd used in the programme came from the 'Wheres The Tea Hut' site! It was great to see them making use of the photo's (at least somebody likes them) it would have been better still if they had given a tiny reference to the fact that they came from the Tea Hut pages. Wonder if this was a lucky one-off or perhaps they've been showing other stuff? I dont mind people using Tea Hut stuff, it is nice to be noted as the source though.Time for the match and a decent one too. The Linnets roared into the game like a house on fire and placed a lot of early pressure on the visitors, Ramsbottom stood firm, soaked it up and impressed me by never looking rattled. Perhaps the first ten minutes had a crucial bearing on this encounter, Runcorn desperately needed an early goal before Ramsbottom settled into their game plan, they didn't get it and the visitors started to take them apart with clinical precision. Excellent passing, movement and exploitation down the flanks proved lethal when added to the undoubted pace of the visitors. It was the second goal just on half time that did the damage, especially as it stemmed from a big defensive blunder, Ramsbottom continued their 'total-football' after the break and two quick goals in three minutes committed The Linnets to their fate. It ended in a 5 goal mauling that could easily have been more, Runcorn to their credit still produced the odd opportunity but it was one of those days for them when they just couldn't hit the target or beat the keeper. Have to say I was much impressed by this Ramsbottom performance, they look a fine side with some very good players, are they good enough to challenge New Mills? I think they are.As the darkness fell it got more and more difficult for me..... I'd only forgot to bring my bloody glasses hadn't I! I just about coped in the first half but when the gloom started gathering I could hardly see the ball, my glasses will be the first thing on my checklist from now on. One final feature from a decent enough visit was 'the Linesman that Fought Back'. Liners often take massive amounts of stick from cocky spectators shouting all manner of abuse at them, halfway through the first half just by where I was stood a tough but fair Ramsbottom challenge went (rightly) unpunished by the referee, a Linnets fan (with a lovely loud scouse accent) decided to pass on a nicety to the Linesman running past him to keep up with play, something along the lines of "Didn't you see that you useless fat git", the Liner stopped in his tracks and asked the fan if he was prepared to back that statement up after the match as he would very much like to make arrangements to 'sort him out'! The startled fan said he could not make comments like that to a spectator, "Watch me" snapped the Liner "And if you dont shut your face up, you'll be going out the ground right now"! The Linnets fan was pretty quite after that..... and so was everybody else on that side of the pitch. Nice one Liner.