After leading for much of the second half, Runcorn Linnets pressed hard in the dying moments to force the game into penalties.
Celtic fielded every player on the roster who could play; whilst they were finding it hard to hit the target, they were getting chances in a fast paced game. Matthew Wolfenden saw his early effort whip just over the crossbar after being put through by a trademark curling pass from Greg Wilkinson, whilst Scott Bakkor and Neil Kengni both tried cutting inside and pulling shots back from the edge of the box that went wide. Olly Marx came closest, heading a corner the wrong side of the post and right on the stroke of half time, Michael Clarke also put his header narrowly wide. At the other end, the closest the home team came was a free kick by Robert Evans that clipped the top of the crossbar, with the Runcorn front line well martialled by the Celtic defence. Aidan Winterbottom’s only action of the half was a comfortable trickle of a shot from Ryan Gibson that was straight at him.
The second half continued at a rapid pace, with Robert Evans forcing Winterbottom to dive low to his right to deny him, before Peter Wylie couldn’t handle Kengni, instead bringing him down just inside the box as Kengni shielded the ball away from the former Celt. Scott Bakkor stepped up to take the spot kick and though Scott Thomas went the right way, he couldn’t keep the ball out of the net.
Linnets changed shape bringing on their top scorers, but it continued to be Celtic who were making the running despite losing Tom Brown to a knock early on. Assistant manager, Gareth Roberts, playing full back produced a wicked curling free kick that Thomas did well to reach and hold onto at the second attempt as Bakkor arrived to tap in. Kengni left a trail of defenders in his wake to latch onto Glenn Rule’s lifted ball, going one-on-one with Thomas. Thomas raced out of his box to close Kengni down. Kengni tried an audacious thirty yard lob that landed inches wide of the post.
Had that gone in, it would have been game set and match to Celtic, as it was, with only a goal behind, the home team pressed hard, winning a few corners in stoppage time. Four minutes and seven seconds into the four minutes of stoppage time, another former Celt, Kurt Sherlock, burst onto Gibson’s scuffed layoff to lash in across the face of Aidan Winterbottom and in off the far post putting the game straight into penalties.
Scott Bakkor kept his nerve for the opening penalty, sending Thomas the wrong way, and whilst Winterbottom went the right way for Louis Corrigan’s penalty, it was a top corner, well struck penalty Winterbottom had no chance of reaching. The pressure was put on Celtic after Thomas saved Rule’s spot kick, the kick at a good height for Thomas, although he was at full stretch. Ronnie McCarthy converted as did Greg Wilkinson, Kurt Sherlock and Olly Marx, all putting the ball just beyond the reach of the keeper. Paul Shanley’s bottom corner effort kept the pressure on as Eddie Maeico stepped up and kept his nerve to put the shoot-out to the last of the five for Runcorn. Freddie Potter stepped up and buried his penalty to send the home side through into the next round.
|4||Dobie, Joshua||> 76|
|7||Holt, Kristian||> 61|
|9||Noble, Luke||> 65|
|12||Sherlock, Kurt||< 76|
|14||Shanley, Paul||< 61|
|16||Potter, Freddie||< 65|