On a proud evening at the Kensite Stadium, Mark Truffas’ first half goal was enough to see off visitors Abbey Hey and clinch the Hallmark Security League Premier Division title for Micheal Clegg’s Atherton Collieries side and with it promotion to the Evo-Stik League First Division, marking a highest ever point for the Alder House club and a fitting end to the club’s Centenary season.
A bumper crowd of over 500 turned out in downtown Atherton on an unseasonably chilly evening with the heroes in black and white needing just two points from their final two games to seal the title ahead of rivals Bootle, and in the end they managed to finish the job with room to spare ahead of fourth-placed Runcorn Town’s visit to the Kensite on Saturday.
Having faced a tense start to the month with a 1-0 home defeat to Runcorn Linnets which left the title race wide open, Colls have since steamrollered their way through six successive victories, and a seventh always looked on the cards once Colls went in front shortly before the half hour mark, despite a dogged and well-organised performance from visitors Abbey Hey.
As has so often been the case this season, talismanic wide man Mark Truffas was the man to deliver the quality when Colls needed it most. Winning a free kick on the right angle of the penalty area in an area from which most players would never dream of taking a pot shot, Truffas instead dusted himself off and delivered an absolute beaut of a strike in the matter of fact style that he has made his own, with Abbey Hey goalkeeper Dean Williams merely a spectator as he watched the ball curl inside his right hand post.
While there was always the threat of the visitors gaining a foothold in the game, the entire Colls side did a tremendous job of keeping their opponents at arm’s length and never really looking in any danger of having to take the title race to the final day, though it was much to Clegg’s credit that he still demanded more and more from his players even as the clock ticked down. For a side enjoying only their second season of football at this level to hit the 100 point mark having already clocked up a century of goals is something that is truly remarkable and certainly something that the club will hold dear as they enter the record books next season in playing at the highest level in the club’s history.
As the side were presented with the league championship on the field immediately after the game, it’s a moment that many of the club’s countless volunteers would probably have never dreamed of until the success of recent seasons has almost made it seem an inevitability with such a sense of desire and invincibility running through the club, with no challenge too bit or insurmountable. It’s certainly a spirit that they will need in bundles next season when taking on established non-league names such as Hyde United, Kendal Town, Droylsden, Clitheroe and Scarborough Athletic, but it’s a challenge that Clegg and his side will be sure to relish. Until then though, they can concentrate on celebrating their incredible progress and see off the season in fine style against Runcorn Town on Saturday at the Kensite Stadium (29th April, 3pm).
Atherton Collieries; Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Josh Messer, Jamie Forbes, Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Jordan Cover, Vinny Bailey (Darrhyl Mason), Mark Truffas (George West). Subs (not used); Matt Grimshaw, Johnny Gorman, Dave Sherlock
Match report by Matt Lawton