Colls visited Shawbridge home of Clitheroe FC for the first time since the 2003/04 campaign and as so often in the past it was a ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’. This time a 93rd minute goal by home no 9 Kurt Willoughby broke the hearts of the boys in black n white stripes and their 100 strong travelling support.
Jamie Forbes and Ben Hardcastle returned to the Colls starting line up but the headline news was Gareth Peet making his 200th competitive appearance. His debut was on 24 August 2010 in a 1-0 away defeat at AFC Blackpool and he has been both a key player and fans favourite from the outset. The game matched up the 15th and 16th placed teams in the division which indicated a close affair was in the offing and that is how it turned out.
Micheal Clegg’s team started well brightly and had a couple of half chances which didn’t really trouble Clitheroe keeper Chris Thompson. Willoughby then smashed a free kick which Adam Reid saved. Reidy may have subsequently got away with one when a Clitheroe attacker went down in the six yard box in the ensuing melee.
Ten minutes later Reid was in action again as had made a fine double save to keep his side on level terms. Seconds later Peet teed up Hardcastle whose rasping drive narrowly cleared the crossbar. In the run up to the half time breather the hosts began to get a grip on the possession but the Collieries rearguard were in formidable form and the 0-0 interval score line was fair enough.
Clitheroe restarted the game brightly but again the Colls defence were in control of the situation. After a quietish first forty five minutes Peet made a trademark buccaneering run forward and he was upended on the Clitheroe 18 yard box whitewash. The referee waved away penalty appeals although photographic evidence later proved the challenge was inside the area. The decision made it levelled up the penalty rejected score. The free kick came to nothing.
Krissy Holt and George West were introduced and the latter soon had a couple of chances to break the deadlock. Firstly the ball landed temptingly at his feet from a corner but his close range was well blocked and then he was played through but his low shot from distance skewed wide of the far post. Both teams were still going for the win in injury time and Alex Newby should have wrapped it up for the blues but somehow he headed wide with the goal open.
The best player on parade Willoughby then proved his worth. A flick on put him clear and he showed great composure before rifling past Reid. Colls almost equalised with the last kick of the game after Lynch overlapped and put in a pinpoint low centre. Unfortunately Holt spooned the decent chance over the bar.
A game of fine margins and the home team and supporters celebrated voraciously at the final whistle while the Colls brethren could only look on and wonder how a well earned point had been snatched from them at the death. They showed true grit and commitment but that’s football and you have to take these knocks on the chin.
Fair credit to Clitheroe FC especially their stellar striker Kurt Willoughby who surely has a great chance to make a good career out of the game. Since the inception of the NWCFL Shawbridge has not been a happy hunting ground for ACFC. We will win there one day!
Atherton Collieries -Adam Reid, Chris Lynch, Gareth Peet, Rick Smith (Kris Holt 63′), Danny Lafferty, Jamie Forbes, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Darrhyl Mason (Danny Lambert 73′), Ashley Woods (George West 62′), Iain Howard
Man of the Match – Gareth Peet. Granted his 200th appearance but his probing runs in the second half predominately had the Clitheroe defence at 6s and 7s. A great effort.