Knutsford 1 Linotype Cheadle HN 2

SATURDAY’S defeat in controversial circumstances leaves Knutsford needing a run of wins in April if they are to retain their champions status, starting at mid-table Malpas on Saturday.

A third contended disallowed goal, coming in the 93rd minute while down to 10 men, left the Reds without reward they felt their second-half showing deserved against title rivals Linotype.

Although Scott Dignan’s men found Linotype’s direct approach and physicality tricky in a first half in which they conceded twice, they were in charge after the break.

Declan Butler’s 89th-minute strike on the swivel from a corner provided fresh hope after Dean Warburton had been sent off 60 seconds earlier for his reactions to a foul, having earlier been shown a yellow card.

Steve Jenyons went up front for a final onslaught that looked to have paid off when a Liam Crellin-Myers free kick into the six-yard area resulted in a scramble and the ball flying into the net off a defender.

But with the referee pointing back to the centre circle he noticed the linesman had put his flag up.

The last chance was gone.

Lino, now only a point behind third-placed Knutsford with two games in hand, were put on the back foot early doors and Myers’ goal was denied for offside after three minutes, before a low cross from Warburton was inches from a tap-in by James Pickford.

Lino’s tactics of defending deep, putting physical pressure on Knutsford, competing for every ball and hitting long balls to big striker Askley Harrison and clever number six Kieran Herbert, started to pay off.

After missed chances at both ends, a free-kick was not cleared and Herbert passed back from the goal-line into the path of Harrison who blasted home in the 25th minute.

The cushion was doubled when Kayle Power took advantage of a poor wall and goalkeeper positioning at a free-kick to rifle home.

Myers had a second goal ruled out, had a shot blocked from two yards out and David Owens got the ball caught up in his feet with the goal open.

A Myers free kick curled over the bar, with Lino defending well but offering little on the counter-attack.

Knutsford were denied a penalty when Owens was fouled as he shot, compounding Knutsford’s frustration leading into the final moments of drama.

Knutsford: Moore, Cartner, Lynch, Jenyons, Brotherton, Pickford (Butler D), Mannion (Butler T), Warburton, Owens, Myers, Rutter (Mattison).