Welcome to Seadog in Exile, a groundhopping blog highlighting a Scarborough Athletic fan's adventures around the North West of England as I study towards a PhD over the next three years. Being located in Lancashire, I have rich pickings for new football grounds, and I'm going to get to as many as possible over the next 36 months. On top of this, I should remember to write my thesis...

Total Grounds Visited: 121

Monday, 10 September 2012

3: Runcorn Town 3-2 Alsager Town

Runcorn Town 3-2 Alsager Town
NWCL Premier
Monday 10th September, 2012
Att: 90

Another night, another match.

Tonight, I made my first trip over the Mersey into Cheshire to the industrial town of Runcorn.

Runcorn FC (later with the additional Halton suffix) used to be a reasonable force in non-league football, but like so many other sides - including Scarborough FC of course - have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.

The situation in 2012 is that Runcorn has two clubs, Runcorn Town and Runcorn Linnets, competing in the same division. The NCWL Premier, at step 5 of the non-league football system, was won last season by Ramsbottom United, with Runcorn Town finishing in the runners-up spot. Their more 'illustrious' neighbours, the fan-owned Runcorn Linnets, finished further down the table, despite a fanbase which is usually around double to treble that of their neighbours across town. This proves that good support doesn't always earn you points!

Tonight's game saw two teams who had started the season indifferently and both sitting in lower mid-table before kick-off.

After getting a very swanky Virgin Pendolino train from Liverpool Lime Street to Runcorn, a journey lasting just 15 minutes or so, I made the short 1 mile walk to Pavilions, the complex where Runcorn Town play their home games.

The first thing that struck me was the huge industrial works behind the ground which made for a surreal backdrop as the darkness drew in. The sparse crowd was outsung by seagulls swooping overhead, giving away the fact that this ground is probably only a few hundred yards or so from the Mersey estuary.

Pavilions actually contains two floodlit football grounds, with the better used by Runcorn Town. The other one is used in the Warrington and District League by Runcorn Albion. This also had a small covered stand and eight floodlight pylons of its own - one of the better grounds in that division, for sure.

I paid my £3 student admission, and by the time the game kicked off, I was still queuing for my evening refreshments.

Sadly, as I turned round, burger in hand, I saw the Runcorn keeper with his arms aloft, clapping in celebration. Runcorn had taken a first minute 1-0 lead, and I'd missed it. 'Better not finish 1-0', I hoped to myself.

It didn't. Having caught up with two fellow groundhoppers, one of whom kindly gave me a lift back to the station following the match, we'd only just finished our introductions when Runcorn won a penalty. If they'd scored, it'd be 2-0 after all of five minutes. The penalty was weak, and the Alsager keeper saved.

On 15 minutes, Alsager were gifted a goal by some horrendous Runcorn defending. The game also took on a feisty character at this point, with a very strong tackle and retaliation earning a player from either side a booking.

On 23 minutes, the third goal of the game arrived, and it went to the home side. Paul Shanley finished with a wonderful header, which was set up by a pin-point cross from the left. 2-1 to Runcorn, and the game looked like it'd be a high-scorer.

As it turned out, there would be just two more goals, coming on 60 and 67 minutes. Runcorn extended their lead on the hour, a goal which was neither pretty nor well-worked, but they all count. Seven minutes later, the goal of the game was tonked in from fully 35 yards with the Runcorn keeper static on the spot.

After this, a torrential downpour of biblical standards commenced, and didn't stop until I was well on my way back to Liverpool. This slowed the game down, and to be honest the players looked like all they wanted was the changing rooms for the last fifteen minutes or so.

During the second half, I spoke to Glyn - a Runcorn fan who I had email correspondence with earlier in the day. He told us all about the club and their hopes for the future.

It's truly amazing how much they have come on in four seasons, from the West Cheshire League to knocking on the door of the Evo-Stik.

I will certainly aim to catch Runcorn in action again on their trips around the north west of England. They did what they had to tonight, but you can tell that they were a good side last season, and just need to hit top gear to get some good results as this season progresses.

I also hope to check out the Linnets at some point, and hope that neither Glyn nor anyone I meet at the Linnets asks me to pick my favourite.

An enjoyable evening, but a soggy one!

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