It was early Christmas cheer for Congleton Town as three second-half goals saw them comfortably beat Runcorn Town 4-1 and move up to 7th in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division table.
An own goal from Runcorn’s Anthony Davies put the Bears ahead ten minutes before the interval. Ethan Hartshorn, Aaron Johns and Eric Graves all scored in the second half to ensure the Cheshire side won the game with relative ease against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The hosts made all the early running in the game and, could have gone ahead as early as the fourth minute when Port Vale legend Tom Pope volleyed goalwards. However, Runcorn goalkeeper Adam Reid made a smart save to push the ball away from danger.
If that was a great chance for Pope then he had a glorious chance on 18 minutes, when he dragged a shot just millimetres wide of the goal when many in the crowd expect the ball to hit the back of the net.
Pope’s strike partner Johns also had a great chance to open the scoring on the half an hour mark when the ball was floated to him at the back post, he somehow managed to rattle the crossbar. The rebound fell to Hartshorn who also struck the crossbar.
While at the other end, Runcorn captain Richard Foulkes and forward Francois Antoine both had efforts that went wide of Dave Parton’s goal. It was one those of the afternoons where Parton was largely a spectator between the sticks for Congleton.
The Bears took the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances when Town defender Davies thumped a header past his own goalkeeper. On first viewing the goal was credited to former Leek Town captain Darren Chadwick but, it was later changed to go down as an own goal.
After the break, Congleton came out firing on all cylinders as Johns headed narrowly over the crossbar before Pope saw his effort smothered by Reid all within in five minutes of the second half starting.
The Bears then scored twice in 10 minutes as they roared into a commanding 3-0. The first came on 51 minutes when Oliver Putman found Hartshorn free in the area and, he made no mistake from close range. Then five minutes later Pope broke free of the Runcorn defence, he then unselfishly squared the ball to Johns who beat the onrushing Reid.
Despite being 3-0 down Runcorn continued to try and play football throughout the afternoon and, they had a way back into the game when they won a penalty on 68 minutes as Peter Williams fouled Jordan Carroll. The duty of taking the penalty fell to Runcorn’s top scorer Craig Cairns, who has scored 10 times this season, however, somehow, he hit the effort against the roof signage above the stand instead of the back of the net.
The goal of the game came on 75 minutes when from the edge of the area substitute Eric Graves hooked the ball past Reid and into the far corner of the goal. The four-goal lead was the least the Bears deserved as they dominated proceedings from start to finish.
However, Runcorn reduced the arrears on 78 minutes, when Carroll was allowed to get a shot away which beat Parton. It was scant consolation for the visitors who had been second best throughout the game.
The drama wasn’t over there as Congleton were reduced to 10 men as captain Roberts was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession on 80 minutes. His manager Richard Duffy was disappointed with his skipper’s dismissal and felt that he could have used his experience to stay on the pitch.
Congleton will be pleased with three points but equally pleased with attendance as 273 fans watched the game which is fantastic considering it’s the final Saturday before Christmas, a time when people are out doing last-minute present shopping.
You can hear Congleton Town player-manager Richard Duffy reaction to the game here.
Congleton Town: Parton, Faulkner, Nsaka, Williams, Duffy, Chadwick, Putman (Johnson,74), Roberts, Pope, Hartshorn (Graves,57) and Johns (Bott,78).
Unused subs: Jepson and Zola.
Runcorn Town: Reid, Exell, Smyth, Davies, Foulkes, Hughes (Holt,59), Lowe, Ruffer (Carroll,54), Antonie, Cairns and Ruben (Dwyer,59).
Unused subs: Jones and Samson.