Colls ventured to the Wirral looking to take all three points to keep the pressure on those above them and to ensure the players Xmas Do which followed in Chester would not have the edge taken off it. The hosts had not won a league game in their opening twenty five outings but they were due one if you look at the law of averages. A professional display ensured a happy evening soiree.
Colls made five changes to the team which started against Hanley Town in the previous game. Adam Reid and Gareth Peet were injured, Vinny Bailey wasn’t 100% to start, Josh Messer was rested to avoid a possible booking which would see him miss the Shildon FA Vase clash while Mark Truffas was ‘popping the question’ in Windermere. She said yes thankfully. Long overdue! Robert Sadler came in for his debut between the sticks, Jamie Forbes returned from a three game ban, Neil Chappell had his first start with Brad Cooke and Dave Sherlock returning to the line-up.
The first half was a stop start affair with what could be a record number of free kicks given in an opening 45 minutes of a Hallmark Security League clash. Colls certainly had the better of the half and could quite easily have led by more than 2-1 at the interval. Danny Lafferty thought he had opened the scoring for the Colls as early as the 2nd minute but it was chalked off for offside contentiously.
Jordan Cover was then put through one on one with Laird’s keeper Parkinson who did excellently to tip the shot round the post. Sherlock hoofed over from a Cover centre before Lafferty headed against the bar from close range.
There had only been 10 minutes on the clock and some Colls supporters were wondering whether it was going to be one of those days.
On 14 minutes their prayers were answered. Chappell made a fine interception on the edge of the Laird’s box and the ball spilled to Ben Hardcastle who fired into the bottom left corner of the net.
The lead lasted about 7 minutes. The ball bounced to Luke Camden about 25 yards out and he hit an unstoppable crash bang wallop of a strike past Sadler. The visitors were back in the box seat just after the half hour mark. A Chappell strike from the edge of the box was expertly tipped onto the bar by the handy Parkinson but Cooke was on hand to gobble up the rebound. Sherlock had an effort chalked off for offside; this time the jury agreed with the assistant referee.
Colls came out for the second half determined and made it 3-1 on 56 minutes. Cover hammered into the roof of the net following a goalmouth scramble.
Camden pulled it back again when his towering header was adjudged to have gone over the line via the near post. The Colls rearguard disputed the decision but the goal was never going to be ruled out.
This focused Colls again and they were soon two goals to the good again. Parkinson spilled a Sherlock piledriver and Hardcastle reacted quickest to prod home for his brace.
With 10 minutes remaining Lafferty threaded a ball through the Laird’s defence and Mark Battersby steadied himself before scoring. Battersby then made it the half dozen from a yard out after Cooke unselfishly squared to him. There was still time for Liam Wood to hit the post and Battersby hit the bar in injury time.
Cammell Laird is always a difficult place to visit and Michael Clegg was very happy with the 3 points which left his side in fourth place at Christmas. It is all to play for in the league with the top five all harbouring genuine title chances.
Atherton Collieries: Robert Sadler, Jake Kenny, Jamie Forbes, Dave Sherlock, Matt Grimshaw, Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Jordan Cover, Neil Chappell, Darrhyl Mason – Substitutes: James Brooks, Mark Battersby, Josh Messer, Liam Wood, Vinny Bailey
Match report by Emil Anderson
Photo by David Featherstone