Runcorn Linnets 3 Barnoldswick Town 1
Table-topping Runcorn Linnets inflicted a fifth-successive North West Counties Premier Division away defeat on Barnoldswick Town on Saturday.
The result leaves the Victory Park side in 14th place – just nine points above the relegation positions – and in need of a cure for their awayday blues.
Town face another away fixture on Saturday, their third in succession, at Norton United this Saturday.
They may draw hope from the fact that they put up a decent performance against the Linnets who currently lead the table.
Just as in their previous game at Glossop they were undone by one of the league’s in-form strikers.
Anthony Hickey hit a hat-trick to seal Linnets’ sixth-straight home win.
Barnoldswick, whose joint boss Paul Fildes is a former Linnets player, started well on what was a decent surface, given the recent weather.
They created a couple of chances but were unable to capitalise.
The Linnets were more ruthless. After just ten minutes Hickey beat his man and slammed a powerful shot into the net.
Town responded well to the setback and continued to push forward whenever they could.
At the other end, Lyle Davy distinguished himself with a fine save from Matt Atherton, and then from a great Kev Towey turn and strike.
Atherton spurned a further chance, heading wide from a good ball in.
The Linnets extended their lead before the half-hour mark when Ellison slipped a precise pass into the path of Hickey who gave Davy no chance.
It said much for Barnoldswick’s character that they pulled a goal back before the break. Liam Blades scored for the first time since returning to the club when he forced the ball home from close range.
The good work was almost immediately undone when Hickey missed a great headed chance.
If the pace of the game didn’t really pick up after the break, then the wind certainly did, as the 301 spectators struggled to keep warm.
Hickey didn’t have to wait long for his treble, latching on to a goalmouth scramble to steer home and restore the Linnets' two-goal lead after 48 minutes.
Martin Crowder and Towey both went close for Linnets as play became scrappy. The home side also had a couple of half-hearted penalty claims waved away.
Town, who had the advantage of the wind, tested keeper Andy Robertson on several occasions but despite playing with a lot of spirit and determination they could not reduce the deficit.