Atherton Collieries came into this damp, Tuesday night meeting at Irongate on the back of their first league win at this level. Spirits were high in the camp following a 3-1 victory over second placed Nantwich Town but all the hard work and promise came undone just 28 minutes into the match when Colls were reduced to ten men, which ultimately spurred Bamber Bridge on to a comfortable victory.
The match started off at a fast pace and it was Colls who looked the more lively in the opening stages. Brad Lynch, who was a stand out performer in the first half, collected a precise crossfield ball from Kieran Nolan. Setting off on a jinking run, the winger cut inside and was unfortunate to see his effort fly over the crossbar at the clubhouse end of the ground.
Brig themselves were on the attack moments later when Chris Cheetham was forced to tip an Alistair Waddecar headed effort over the bar. It was Colls though who continued to probe forward in search of an opening and Ben Conway was pivotal to their attacking threat. On 12 minutes, he fed the ball into Tom Bentham who curled an effort safely into the palms of opposing goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby.
When Bamber Bridge right back Chris Churchman was cautioned for a late foul on Lynch, there was a sense that it could be a long night for the home defence. However, a red card for Colls midfielder Kieran Nolan changed the dynamics of the contest totally and from that moment on it only ever looked like there would be one winner.
Less than a minute after being reduced to ten men, Colls found themselves defending an indirect freekick in their own six yard box after the referee, who was becoming under increasing scrutiny from the travelling supporters, adjudged Cheetham to have handled a back pass. Fortunately for Michael Clegg’s side, the kick was too close to goal and it flew over the bar allowing the away side to regroup.
A goal was definitely coming and it arrived on 39 minutes when a loose ball fell to Danny Forbes who fired an unstoppable half volley along the floor into the bottom right hand corner.
Collieries had a reshuffle of players at half time, using all three substitutes at once. Oli Roberts, Ian Rowlands and Brad Lynch were replaced by Dave Sherlock, Vinny Bailey and Jack Egan. What hope Colls had of drawing level had all but disappeared just three minutes into the half when Waddecar found the back of the net. He has a habit of scoring against Colls.
A fantastic passing move, which saw the away side carry the ball from their own area, resulted in Conway floating a ball into the area. It evaded the efforts of Bentham and found Egan unmarked at the back post but the young forward was unable to keep his shot down and failed to test Rigby.
As the clouds above South Ribble released their watery contents at furious pace the home side added a third. And what a goal it was. Former Kendal Town and Stalybridge Celtic defender Danny Wisdom picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and smacked it straight into the top left hand stanchion, once again leaving Cheetham with no chance.
The home side could have added to their tally but a mixture of brave defending and poor finishing kept the scoreline down. It was a night to forget for Collieries after such a promising start to the game. Ultimately, the red card threw the game plan out of the window and recovery from that point just wasn’t possible against a Bamber Bridge side who were clinical in front of goal.
Luckily, Colls have a fantastic opportunity to put tonight’s defeat behind them when they travel to FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup 1st Round Qualifying on Saturday.
Atherton Collieries – Chris Cheetham, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Kieran Nolan, Danny Lafferty, Ian Rowlands (Dave Sherlock), Ben Hardcastle, Oli Roberts (Vinny Bailey), Tom Bentham, Brad Lynch (Jack Egan), Ben Conway – Substitutes not used: Kieran Feeney & Niall Battersby
Bamber Bridge – Lloyd Rigby, Chris Churchman, Adam Sumner, Matt Lawlor, Kieran Charnock, Joe Booth, Ali Waddecar, Danny Wisdom, Danny Forbes, Ryan White, Chris Marlow – Substitutes: Phil Doughty, Matt Dudley, Scott Harries, Cameron Ross, Danny Roccia
Attendance – 297
Man of the Match – Tom Bentham
Match report by Joseph Gibbons