The Collieries bounced back in style on Saturday, beating Runcorn Town 4-0. It was back to business on Tuesday though and the Colls had to have their wits about them in the face of a potential Banana Skin – AFC Blackpool away, on a Tuesday night.
Despite the midweek nature of the game and the journey Atherton supporters came in their numbers to cheer Clegg and the lads on to what was a 3-1 victory, eventually.
The Collieries didn’t start the game at all well, with just over 60 seconds of the clock stopper Adam Reid was forced into a save. Two minutes later however, the Colls had a corner. Mark Battersby curled the ball into the box for new signing Justin Pickering to head just slightly over the bar after pressure from the Blackpool defence.
The game was that of a midfield battle with the two sides struggling to get any grip of the ball and force any substantial play.
Following a Mark Truffas’ corner on twelve minutes, Mark Ayres had a shot blocked on the line, the tangerine back line parrying away to the edge of the area. Midfielder Dave Sherlock collected the ball and volleyed just over the bar at pace.
Despite the fact the Colls couldn’t string many passes together and were frustrated by Blackpool’s game plan, the black and whites came close again on 18 minutes. Good link up play saw Brad Cooke run through to the edge of the area before passing across to James Kirby. The robust forward powered his way deeper into the danger zone before he drilled his effort straight at Andy Speight in the Blackpool goal.
It was clear things weren’t going right for Atherton this evening. On 27 minutes AFC Blackpool took the lead. The ball was played down the wing to Aaron Flemming – the winger, who had a fine game all evening, cut inside and fired the ball under the advanced Reid.
However, this wasn’t the end – Colls found their reply on 33 minutes thanks to Brad Cooke. The midfielder with a low and hard finish in the left hand corner of the net from the edge of the area. A fine goal.
Half Time – AFC Blackpool 1-1 Atherton Collieries
Clegg would not have been happy with that first half performance from Atherton, the lads looked a shadow of the side they have been recently. Credit to AFC Blackpool whose long ball play prevented creativity from the Collieries.
Second half was a case of more of the same, with the Colls soaking up pressure before Blackpool tired. In a similar start to the first half, Reid was forced into a great save once again, ensuring the tangerines weren’t able to get their noses in front again.
On 52 minutes, the black and whites found themselves with a free kick. Truffas hovered over the ball on the right hand side of the green before he curled it into the area. Kirby was first to the ball as he leapt but directed his headed effort wide.
Parallel to the first period of the game, Colls were frustrated in that they couldn’t break Blackpool down, attack after attack was thwarted at the first line of defence and this resulted in, again, a midfield battle as both sides failed to rack up opportunities.
Five minutes past the hour mark saw the Tangerines with an effort handed to them on a plate. Charlie Waters had the ball played over to him on the edge of the box, and without taking a touch the midfielder fired the ball well over the bar, and the stand just behind it.
Four minutes later and the Collieries woke up and started to break Blackpool down. Ben Hardcastle collected the ball on half-way before he advanced down his rightwing; the lively winger cut inside and chipped the ball into the area. Jordan Cover, just shy of the penalty spot, got his head onto the ball and deflected it towards goal. Cover’s header bounced against the bar and behind. Progress.
Atherton just missed out again on 77 minutes. After he made his way into the area Cover drilled the ball across goal, from the right side, towards the advanced M.Battersby. However, the reliable forward just couldn’t get there as he slid along the turf in his best efforts to get to the ball.
Seconds later, from a cross into the area from the left side, Cooke cushioned his header at goal, it look destined to go in. However, Andy Speight had other ideas as he jumped from one end of his goal to the other in a bid to prevent the goal. He did just that. Superb save.
The game looked destined to be a draw. That was until the Colls got their momentwith five minutes of the game left. Following handball in the Blackpool are the black and whites found themselves with a penalty. Ayres took the responsibility and scored as he sent the keeper the wrong way.
On 87 minutes the Colls made it three. Ben Hardcastle fired a low and hard shot into the bottom right hand corner of the goal, aided by the otherwise excellent keeper who really should have grasped onto it.
Full Time – AFC Blackpool 1-3 Atherton Collieries
Not a fine performance from the Colls, but a win is a win, as was tweeted after the game, it wasn’t pretty but was eventually effective – we go again with our heads high on Saturday, we welcome Barnton to Alder House in the semi-final of the MEN United Cup.
Free kick Count – 12
Match Report by Zach Pierce