AN action-packed Boxing Day fixture list ignites excitement in every football fan; but this year, Runcorn has something extra special to look forward to.
Derby matches typically generate an air of anticipation in any town or city.
Their divisive nature rings aloud in the customary week long build up. But when two clubs, fuelled by community spirit clash for the first time in history, it’s an occasion to behold. For the winners at least.
Runcorn Town will play host to Runcorn Linnets the day after Christmas.
When the referee’s whistle blasts at 3pm, over 43 years of Runcorn Town history (formerly Mond Rangers) will feel the full force of a Runcorn Linnets setup still cutting its teeth after re-forming as recently as 2006.
In the North West Counties Football League, both sides compete at a level in which much of the glamour of modern day televised football is absent; but it’s the heart committed supporters invest in each club which will make Boxing Day an occasion to remember according to Linnets’ boss Paul McNally.
“Anything can happen,” said McNally. “I think it’s a great game for the town. For Runcorn to have two teams doing well in the league and playing each other on Boxing Day can only be good for the town.
“Everyone at the game should pat themselves on the back just for being there after all the hard work that’s gone in to both clubs. When you see these people behind the scenes, they never stop. So it will be nice for everyone involved.
“For the players it’s another game; a few of our lads know theirs, so they know what they’re about.
“I know their assistant manager Danny Salt well – we were teammates for four years so I’ll be looking forward to having a drink with him after the game.”
Linnets will travel to a Town side chasing their third consecutive promotion and currently sitting fifth in the table, with games in hand on leaders Bootle.
McNally is full of praise for the work done by his opposite number in developing Town into a title-chasing team for the third season in succession.
Quizzed on Simon Burton, McNally added: “It’s tremendous what he’s done and how he’s done it. He deserves a pat on the back. To get consecutive promotions in any league is a hell of an achievement, and to have maintained the profile of the club in the process.
“I never hear anyone say a bad word about them. They’re in a great position and have had good cup runs, so their season is so alive it’s unbelievable.
“When you’re flying like they are, every player is dangerous. They’ve got James McShane up-front scoring all the goals and lads in the midfield who will cause us problems.”
After a spluttering November, McNally’s side are also finding form, with consecutive wins against Winsford United and Silsden providing a confidence-boosting Christmas tonic ahead of the local clash. The run of form means both sides are now within the top 10 of the North West Counties Premier League and harbouring hopes of promotion into the Evo-Stik League First Division.
Despite McNally’s evident zest for the fixture, he is adamant the excitement of supporters will not impact upon the dressing room as his side seek focus at Town’s Pavilion Sports Complex.
Town fell to their third home defeat of the campaign against Glossop North End in their last outing at Pavilions, and while Burton understands the local interest in the fixture, he is keen to ensure the derby is treated solely as a quest for three crucial points.