The week before this Reusch First Division Cup final saw the Collieries’ with an unbelievable set of fixtures, five games in a week – four games in four days. However, after a 0-0 draw away at Daisy Hill on Monday night, everyone’s attention was now turned towards the aforementioned Cup Final against AFC Darwen at Bottle’s Delta Taxi Stadium.
The game made a very slow start as both teams early attacks amounted to nothing. On the 24th minute however, the game was sparked to life with a penalty shout. Said shout came from the Darwen camp as they adjudged their Ryan Steele to have been brought down in the box by Collieries’ goalkeeper Danny Taberner. The referee signalled no penalty.
Two minutes later, down the other end of the field and the Colls very nearly found themselves with the advantage. Nathan Battersby chased a forward ball and found himself one on one with Darwen goalkeeper Stefan Holden. Holden headed the ball clear of the goal – however, the loose ball fell to the feet of Captain Mark Battersby who controlled and attempted to take advantage of the open goal. Unfortunately, a mixture of the distance from the goal and the angle meant Battersby found it difficult to get his shot on target.
Throughout the game Darwen took full advantage of their counter attacks and on 35 minutes they found themselves ahead. The ball was lost by Atherton in the centre of midfield and Darwen capitalised on this. Thomas Entwistle received the ball on the left wing, Entwistle then went onto play a wonderful ball into the box as he curled it around the Collieries back four. Darwen’s Paul Coote completed the move as he headed the ball into the back of the net from the centre of the box.
Darwen’s goal helped the Colls to gain some momentum, and minutes later they nearly found themselves level. Mark Truffas received the ball on his favoured left wing, Truffas sent the ball into the packed Darwen area, and the ball evaded all of the Darwen defence but also the Colls attack.
With five minutes to go until Half Time – a penalty shout from the Colls camp. The ball was played through to M. Battersby who advanced towards the goal. Darwen defender Adam Douglas held M. Battersby back to prevent him from continuing his run. The linesman flagged his flag but the referee overruled and decided not to give the foul.
Seconds remained of the first half when Truffas played the ball up to M.Battersby. M. Battersby, in the Darwen area, brought the ball down to his feet, turned into the direction of the goal but placed the ball straight into Holden’s palms.
Half Time – AFC Darwen 1-0 Atherton Collieries
Second half, Atherton came out with real intensity. Two minutes into the second period of the game, Truffas won the ball on the edge of the box, left of the centre of the area. Truffas took a touch and curled the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. However, Holden again was there to palm it away.
The ten minutes that opened the second half was just Collieries’ corner after corner after corner. The highlight of said corners was that of the third corner. The ball was swung into the Drawen area and aimed for the back post. A Colls’ head flicked the ball on and it now was destined for the back of the net. However, Darwen’s Thomas Entwistle managed to get his head onto the ball and clear it away.
Despite the massive improvement seen in Atherton – Darwen doubled their advantage on 57 minutes. The ball was lost in midfield by the Collieries defence, Darwen capitalised on this. Darwen’s Conor Gaul received the ball and he made his run into the Colls’ box and fired his shot at goal, Gaul aimed for the bottom right hand corner. Tabberner did extremely well to get down and parry said shot away. However, Taberner’s parry landed straight into the path of Anthony Lynch who tapped in to send both Darwen’s fans and players wild.
This deflated Atherton for a period. However, the Collieries still searched for a way back into the game, any way back into the game. On 71 minutes, they were given their lifeline. The Colls were awarded a penalty following a foul on Ben Hardcastle. M. Battersby stepped up and duly despatched as he sent Holden the wrong way. 2-1, game on.
Darwen were unbelievable in defence as they, time after time, managed to clear the ball away and, if it wasn’t for their defence, Holden was always there to be called upon as he made some excellent individual saves. On 83 minutes Darwen’s defence was tested once again. From an Atherton goal kick, Taberner played the ball long and aimed for Matthew Grimshaw, on the edge of the Darwen area. Grimshaw played the ball on with an excellent header to Jordan Cover’s feet. Cover adjusted and continued his run into the box, Cover fired his shot at goal but somehow, Darwen’s Luke McKenna came out of nowhere to clear the ball off the line.
Holden prevented yet another Collieries effort on 88 minutes – Cover played the ball across the area to the feet of Gareth Peet. Peet ran along the box, towards goal and from a tight angle attempted to slip the ball under Holden. However, Holden was there to prevent any Colls equaliser. Seconds later, Holden dived down onto a Jorndan Cover header from a M. Battersby cross.
Minutes remained of the game when Darwen scored their third of the night. Conor Gaul ran into the area after and played it across to Ryan Steele who was there to tap the ball into the back of the net. This goal followed a shout of a back-pass from the Colls, again waved away by the referee.
Full Time – AFC Darwen 3-1 Atherton Collieries
Congratulations to AFC Darwen who had indeed won the Reusch First Divison Cup.
The effort and the passion of the Colls lads cannot and will not be faulted as every single one of the players gave their all in an attempt to salvage anything from the game. Despite the result, everyone can reflect on what a great run we have had in this competition and what a great season it has been for all in black and white!
Team line ups – coming soon.
Match Report – Zach Pierce