By Chris Sweetman
Click here for Castle Manager, Robin Van der Laan's, reaction to our 3-1 defeat to Runcorn Linnets.
NATHAN Morley’s opening goal was not enough to prevent Newcastle Town from slipping to a 3-1 defeat to Runcorn Linnets at the APEC Taxi Stadium.
Newcastle came into the game looking to build distance between themselves and the relegation places.
Meanwhile, playoff chasing Runcorn had ended a run of seven games without a win on Tuesday against Skelmersdale United.
Newcastle had been on the back foot for much of the first half, but snuck the lead through Nathan Morley after Will Lloyd’s interception.
However, with half-time seconds away, Runcorn struck back immediately thanks to Lewis Doyle’s smart finish.
Runcorn then took the lead shortly after the restart, as Ryan Brooke headed home off a corner.
Then, despite Newcastle pushing hard for a second, Oliver McFadyen broke free to score Runcorn’s third and condemn Newcastle to a third straight away defeat.
Newcastle began the game under pressure, as Runcorn spent the early exchanges camped inside the visitor’s half.
However, a lack of accuracy from Runcorn meant that Newcastle did not have to defend many goalscoring chances.
The hosts had to wait until the tenth minute for their first shot of note, as Brooke’s header was deflected behind by Mikey Conlon.
Shortly after, Ally Brown had the first real shot of the game, forcing a sharp save off Joe Slinn.
Newcastle were struggling to escape their own half, but approaching 20 minutes they won a corner out of nothing, which Tommy van der Laan headed wide.
From there, the game devolved into a scrappy affair, with neither side able to keep meaningful possession or dig out a definite chance.
For Runcorn, Doyle had a shot blocked that prompted appeal for handball, before Conlon fired wide at the other end.
Jamie Rainford then had a shot from near halfway, which was easily claimed by Newcastle keeper Joe Slinn.
Minutes later, with halftime looming, Newcastle took the lead against the run of play.
Will Lloyd intercepted a Runcorn pass in midfield, before feeding Morley, who held off three defenders to score, despite home keeper Danny Taberner getting a hand to his shot.
However, Newcastle’s lead lasted barely a minute, as Runcorn went straight into the visitor’s box, and Doyle finished sharply to equalise.
Newcastle’s frustrations at immediately conceding the equaliser so close to the break were compounded as Runcorn quickly took the lead.
McFadyen fired wide soon after the restart, before Runcorn won a corner, from which Brooke was able to head them ahead for the first time.
Conceding the goal sparked Newcastle into an immediate attack, as Will Lloyd intercepted again, but this time could not create an opening.
Moments later Conlon almost brought Newcastle back level, but his long range shot just drifted wide of the goal.
Runcorn then had a chance to extend the lead, as Eden Gumbs’ perfect cross found Rainford’s head, but his attempt was straight at Slinn.
Minutes later, Jack Derbyshire found room for a shot, which Taberner just about saved, despite the onrush Ryan Baxter.
That sparked a long spell of Newcastle besieging the Runcorn goal, but smart defending by the hosts ensured Newcastle could not get a shot on target.
Runcorn largely dispelled Newcastle’s threat from there, but it was looking like a third goal would be required to ensure victory.
That was proved as a break by Conlon saw him feed Oliver Ritchie, whose chipped pass almost fell for Nathan Morley, who could not quite stretch for the scoring touch.
Instead, Runcorn were starting to find some threat through McFadyen, who first won a freekick that came to nothing, before his shot had to be cleared off the line by James Askey.
Minutes later, McFadyen killed the game off for Runcorn in controversial fashion.
Tommy van der Laan had gone down in a clash with Brooke, but the referee allowed play to continue, and the hosts worked it wide for McFadyen to score.
While Newcastle still tried to find a way back into the game, it stayed scrappy, with a saved Morley attempt to find the top corner in injury time the only real chance.
Defeat means Newcastle drop to 15th in the table, and are now just two points above of the relegation playoff places, with the trip to 11th place Bootle next Saturday now a must win game.