Kidsgrove Athletic suffered their first defeat in nine league games as they lost 1-0 to play-off chasing Runcorn Linnets.
Ryan Brooke’s first-half goal won the game for the Linnets, but the visitors could have won by a bigger margin as Ryan Brown saved a first-half penalty from Joe Lynch.
Before kickoff, Kidsgrove manager Scott Dundas was forced into a late change as Ethan Padden, who had been named in the starting lineup, pulled up injured in the warm-up and had to be replaced by midfielder Kyle Blake.
The first real chance of the afternoon brought the game’s opening goal as Iwan Murray’s corner was expertly dummied by Alex Downes as the ball fell to Brooke. The forward calmly slotted the ball past the despairing dive of Ryan Brown for his 20th league goal of the season.
Runcorn keeper Scott Reed was fortunate not to be sent off on 21 minutes when he lost possession to Kieran Brown. The forward laid the ball off before being shoved over by the keeper. In the ensuing melee, referee David Burton cautioned the keeper.
Lynch could have made it 2-0 on 25 minutes with a long-range effort. A rare slip from Lewis Bergin saw the ball fall between Brookes and Ryan Brown. The goalkeeper cleared the ball, but only as far as to Lynch, who from 45 yards out tried his luck. Thankfully for the Grove, the ball sailed wide of the goal.
He had an even better chance to score on 30 minutes when a slip from Oliver Jepson saw him bring down Brooke inside the area. Up stepped Lynch, but his poor penalty was well saved by Brown to keep the score at 1-0.
Sean O’Mahony almost gave Kidsgrove a way back into the game when he cut out Kyle Diskin’s cross. He was lucky that his clearance went out for a corner as the ball could have gone anywhere from his wild swing.
Kidsgrove’s top scorer Kieran Brown had a quiet game up front for the Grove. The former Hanley Town and Chasetown forward only had one real chance of scoring, which he saw a long-range effort deflect straight into the hands of Reed.
That was Reed’s last involvement in the game as he was brought off at the interval, having picked up a knock in the opening 45 minutes. His replacement was former Newcastle Town goalkeeper Owen Mooney. The goalkeeper had been on loan at Newcastle from Wigan Athletic until last month before being recalled by the Latics. He was then loaned out again, this time to Runcorn in mid-February.
With the sun now glaring straight into Mooney’s eyes, the Grove started the second half the better of the two teams as they had a couple of chances with Max McCarthy putting a snatched shot wide of the goal. Shortly afterwards, Diskin put a volley wide by the same distance.
Runcorn then had two great chances within a minute to extend their lead. However, they failed to test Brown as Lewis Doyle put his effort wide of the goal, while Lynch put a great chance over the crossbar.
Young midfielder Callum Leigh had a good opportunity to equalise just before the hour mark when he headed a Diskin free-kick against the crossbar. It was a fantastic chance for the Grove, but in fairness, to Leigh, the angle was against him as he was nearly on the goal line when he won his header.
The game slowly petered out as both teams gave away silly fouls to stop either side from gaining momentum. It certainly suited the visitors as it stopped Kidsgrove from getting in their stride as they looked for an equaliser.
The Grove had two great chances to grab a late equaliser and take a point from the game. The first effort saw Diskin slam a close-range free-kick against the inside of the post, which then rolled across the face of the goal, with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Then in injury time, Lewis Bergin forced Mooney into a fine save as he tipped the defender’s free-kick over the crossbar.
The result keeps Kidsgrove in 12th place in the league table as they missed out on the chance to leapfrog Widnes and City of Liverpool into 10th place as both sides lost today against Bootle and Clitheroe respectively.
Kidsgrove Athletic: R.Brown, Blake (Morris,72), Bergin, Bromfield, Jepson, O’Riordan, Diskin, Leigh (Lovatt, 60), K.Brown, McCarthy (Cocks, 72) and Adu-Gyamfi.
Unused sub: Padden
Runcorn Linnets: Reed (Mooney, 46), Brown, Short, Welsh, Downes, O’Mahony, Lynch (Olarewajua, 74), Doyle, Brooke, Murray and Marsh Hughes (Hayes, 90).
Unused subs: Gumbs and Wylie.