The second home match of 2018 saw Atherton Collieries welcome Clitheroe. The blues are a side who have often caused trouble for the Collieries, most recently inflicting one of the rare defeats of the 2014/15 season, before beating the Colls through an injury time winner in this season’s reverse fixture. Unfortunately, even the most hardcore of black and whites can’t recall a victory in this particular match-up.

Going into the match, there was a sense of renewed optimism around Alder Street following a proud voluntary effort by a large working party to ensure the playability of the game, and positives in defeat from the performances against Trafford and an up-and-coming Ossett Albion side.

Indeed, this tentative confidence was on show through the first half of the fixture, and Colls started the game with a steady footing. The black and whites certainly needed a lift to build some momentum, and a fantastic strike by Chris Lynch offered a glimmer of hope that that break had finally arrived.

After around half an hour of play, a scramble in the penalty area allowed the ball to roll perfectly to the feet of the experienced full-back. Striking the ball first time, from closer to the halfway line than he was to the 18-yard box, Lynch’s effort found a clean path through the crowded penalty area, under the goalkeeper, and into the bottom left corner of the Clitheroe net.

This much needed spark didn’t last long however, and the Blues had equalised within three minutes. Clitheroe’s Alex Newby, in his first major contribution of a standout performance, smartly played Daniel Byrnes past the Collieries defence. Former Colls forward George West ran forward in support, and was in plenty of space to convert Byrne’s low cross past Greg Hartley for Clitheroe’s equaliser.

Both teams continued to battle for the momentum throughout a close first half, with the most notable chance coming through Iain Howard, who was gifted the opportunity to shoot from the penalty spot, only to volley comfortably into the hands of Clitheroe ‘stopper Chris Thompson.

The first goal of a tough second half came through George West scoring his second. West was making his fifth appearance at the Kensite of the season, having made four appearances for the home side before moving onto Clitheroe. West was in the perfect position to curl a shot home from the edge of the box following a miss-hit clearance, giving the blues the momentum.

Free kicks at the Kensite Stadium have often been the specialty of fans favourite Mark Truffas, though after Truffas’ recent departure, new signing Luke Giverin has started to stake a strong claim to the responsibility. After coming close for the Colls in last week’s fixture against Trafford, Giverin again came incredibly near to converting a dead-ball, with a strike moments after the restart thundering into the bottom right post.

The Clitheroe third came through Alex Newby. Picking up possession on the half-way line, Jacob Gregory played a piercing ball over the Collieries defence. Newby was alert to the pass, and played a first time-half volley to lob the onrushing Greg Hartley.

At this point, the black and whites still had some fight remaining however. Darrhyl Mason was substituted onto the field of play after 70 minutes, and within minutes had found a place on the scoresheet. Ben Hardcastle played Iain Howard through on the left flank of the pitch, whose cross found Masons’ outstretched foot, making its way into the back of the net for the fifth goal of the match.

The decisive goal came minutes later. A tangle of legs in the penalty area saw Kurt Willoughby win a Clitheroe penalty, and a penalty which he soon comfortably converted, to regain the Blues’ two goal advantage just as Colls began to press for an equaliser.

Clitheroe scored a fifth as the game entered the final moments of stoppage time. Kurt Willoughby made a darting run through the Colls defence, only to miss-hit his effort at the final moment. However, Alex Newby was on hand to finish the job, getting the ball under control before poking in from just outside of the six yard box.

It was another frustrating day at the Kensite Stadium, as Clitheroe took advantage of a late Colls collapse. Next up, the black and whites welcome Bamber Bridge for their third encounter on Alder Street this season on Monday evening, in an Integro Cup tie, before travelling to Goole on Saturday the 13th. Goole sit bottom of the Evo-Stik North table, 9 points below the Collieries.

Collieries: Greg Hartley, Chris Lynch, Glenn Matthews (Darrhyl Mason ‘69), Sebastian Julien, Danny Lafferty (Josh Messer ‘75), Jamie Forbes, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Ryan Salmon (Matthew Fearnley ‘80), Iain Howard, Luke Giverin.

Unused Substitute: Jake Kenny

Clitheroe: Christopher Thompson, Jacob Gregory, Stephen Rigby, Ian Rowlands, Ryan Ellison, Ross Dent, Daniel Byrnes, Charlie Russell, Kurt Willoughby, Alex Newby, George West.

Attendance: 219

Match Report: Rob Clarke
Photo: Dave Featherstone

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