The Rams and the Linnets have been regular league opponents going all the way back to February 2008, just 18 months after the Cheshire club were founded.
Football in Runcorn had been played way before that though, with Runcorn FC just missing out on promotion to the Football League after winning the Alliance Premier League (which is now the National League) in 1982. Automatic promotion and relegation didn’t come in to being until 1987, which proved to be too late for them.
Unfortunately, things spiralled at the turn of the century – three ground moves, multiple relegations and financial disarray – and by 2006, the club were forced to resign from the Northern Premier League and close its nomadic doors.
However, Runcorn Linnets had already been formed by a set of disgruntled supporters and had applied and accepted to join the North West Counties in 2006. Runcorn FC were known as the Linnets – a linnet being a bird which appears on the badge – which is the same as the town coat of arms but with the addition of the birds!
Promoted as runners-up in their first season, they would join the Rams in Division One for the 2007/08 season although we didn’t meet until mid-February when we played each other twice in two weeks.
The first ever meeting, on 16 February 2008, saw a resounding victory for the Rams, coming out 4-0 winners thanks to Iain McLennan’s 12th minute strike and then three goals in the last 12 minutes from Dean Thurston, Graham Vaughan and Matt Kay.
It was described on the Linnets’ site as “more ‘cow’s arse’ than Ramsbottom as the Linnets produced a disjointed, ill-disciplined performance going down by four goals in East Lancashire. By contrast, according to their website the home side produced their best display of the season (if not the last two years).” Always got to love a play on words with our name!
But revenge was sealed on 1 March 2008 at Wincham Park when the Linnets secured a 1-0 win when man of the match Vinnie Brain fired an unstoppable shot from 10 yards out on 74 minutes.
In 2008/09 season, a late Jon Stephenson strike clinched a point for the Rams on the road after Steve Pickup’s early goal was cancelled out by Tom Ruttle only for Michael Morrison to give the Linnets the lead again on the half-hour. Stephenson’s rocket came 10 minutes from time. And then, with the Rams already packing up for the holidays in late April and barely putting at team out (a goalkeeper and Graham Jebb on the bench), Matthew Ellis’ 16th minute opener was submerged by three goals in seven minutes from Anthony Murt and a pair from Rob Whyte as the visits won 3-1.
But that has been pretty much it for the Linnets in head-to-head games as, since November 2009, we have met nine times in league meetings and they have won just the once.
It was one way traffic in the remaining six times we played in the NWCFL, a 4-0 win with Joel Pilkington, Carl Lomax, Jon Robinson and Matthew Edgington on the scoresheet was followed by a 3-2 win under the Wincham lights as Rob Whyte’s opener was cancelled out by a brace from Michael Morrison and one from Andy Dawson before Matthew Clarkson grabbed a late consolation to make the game interesting for the final 10 minutes.
Look away now, Linnets fans! 2010/11 season, a year we were runners-up, saw them hammered 5-0 at the Riverside and 5-0 on our first visit to the Millbank Stadium. On 7 September 2010, Bernard Morley, Lee Gaskell, Phil Dean, Joel Pilkington and Eddie O’Neill all netted for the Rams. When we headed west on 11 December 2010, a pair from Pilkington and singles from Dominic Smalley, Ian Flannery and a late penalty from Gaskell sealed the 10-0 aggregate for the season.
And having beaten them 2-1 at the Linnets Stadium in November 2011 (Mark Drew and Robinson for the Rams, Chris Dykes for the hosts), the 4-2 win at the Riverside on 3 March 2012 was the start of the 13 game unbeaten run to the NWCFL title – coming after the famous late night at Prescot Cables’ ground when the managers had a lengthy heart-to-heart after losing 2-1 to AFC Liverpool. The rest, as they say, is history as Ryan Moore crashed a hat-trick and Grant Spencer added a fourth after Paul Prescott and Matthew Atherton had scored for the visitors.
It was six years before we would cross swords again and Runcorn grabbed their only win in that time. Louis Corrigan’s sixth minute penalty gave them the lead, Tom Kennedy responded. Peter Wylie quickly restored their advantage, Nialle Rodney’s penalty on the hour restored parity only for Freddie Potter to strike ten minutes from time to take all three points as the Rams closed the game with nine men with Jacobs and Kieran Lugsden both sent off.
The last three games between the sides have been one of each – a Rammy win, a Linnets win and a draw. The Rams win came at Millbank – Mitch Bryant opening the scoring for the home side only for Nic Evangelinos and Jamie Rainford to score either side of the break to give us a 2-1 win and then, in the defunct 2019/20 season, Zac Aley’s 40th minute hit was levelled by Evangelinos midway through the second half for a 1-1 draw.
Overall, it’s 13 games, 8 wins for the Rams, 3 for the Linnets and 2 draws with 35 goals for the Blues and 16 for the Green and Yellows.
That’s the history. Saturday is the future. It will be our first trip back to the Millbank Stadium since March 2019 and we can’t wait to reengage with the excellent Linnets following.
Whatever happens, enjoy the game!