LINNETS had the kind of North West Counties debut they had lived out in their dreams, writes DAVE BETTLEY.

Four goals without reply put them top of Division Two at the end of the opening day - despite them playing without any recognised strikers.

In the absence of David Thompson and Thomas Lamb, the rest chipped in with wideman newcomer Mick Young leading the charge at Green Edge Street.

With a replenished 100-strong visiting contingent making up two thirds of the crowd, left winger Young set up two goals and scored one himself in between.

Meanwhile, former Runcorn FC Halton midfieldman/skipper Paul Scott was cast in a makeshift striking lone role.

He along with the fleet-footed Young and thoughtful Colin Quirk, terrorised the hosts.

Two of the Linnets' strikes came in the last four minutes but the four goals did not flatter them.

Despite Ashton being denied a first-half equaliser for offside, after centre half Paul Holland had headed inside the right post from a free kick, the home threat was restricted to other set-pieces - and anxiety of Runcorn's own making.

Keeper George Caulfield had a nervous debut and almost slipped up with the ball at his feet and in his hands.

Former Harrogate Town shot stopper Caulfield did not have the best of starts when his jersey was found to clash with Ashton's red.

He had to don a white T-shirt, which made him more conspicuous.

Caulfield will need time to settle behind a defence which wobbled less frequently under the uncertainty.

Runcorn were ahead after eight minutes, Andy McCoy finding the bottom-left corner after Young had beaten three defenders on the left.

It stayed at 1-0 until half-time but only because of home keeper Danny Vickers.

He diverted a header from Linnets' skipper Ricky Newell and got down to a left-footed, near-post strike from Mc-Coy, who had drifted in from the right flank.

Around the hour mark, Runcorn were down to nine men with Young and

McCoy both off the field, after picking up knocks.

But both recovered - Young to double the visitors' advantage on 63 minutes.

He threaded onto a throw-in from the left and beat the keeper with a right-foot shot inside the near post.

By the time the last two goals went in Runcorn were in cruise control - having rediscovered their bright football of the first half.

Young skipped through onto a loose ball on the edge of the Ashton box and, after advancing, squared for Quirk to pounce for the third.

McCoy and Young had swapped flanks by this time and when the former was upended by two defenders, Scott perfectly rounded off with a curling 20-yard, right-footed free kick high into the right corner.

LINNETS: Caulfield, Phillips, Melling, O'Driscoll, Newell, Edwards, McCoy, Quirk, Scott, Rollinson, Young. Subs: Carragher, Stringer, Langley.