Ben Hardcastle’s first half penalty was enough to earn all three points for Micheal Clegg’s Colls side as fourth-placed Prescot Cables became the latest Evo-Stik League Division One North promotion chaser to drop points at the Kensite Stadium.
The victory lifts Colls in to tenth position in the league and indeed only six points behind Colwyn Bay who currently occupy the final spot in the promotion play-offs in seventh-placed, albeit with the Welsh outfit having a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference in what is Colls’ first ever season at this level in over 100 years of existence. With a second successive clean sheet for Greg Hartley in the Colls goal, the black and whites extended their unbeaten league run to four games since leaders South Shields ran out 2-0 victors at the Kensite at the start of the month, with two league fixtures remaining along with next week’s Integro League Cup Final.
In what was largely a low-key opening, the game burst in to life on sixteen minutes when the impressive Liam O’Neill was bundled over on the left hand side of the penalty area, with Ben Hardcastle confidently despatching the resultant spot kick for what turned out to be the only goal of the evening, chalking up his third successful penalty conversion in the last four games.
Visitors Prescot, some way behind the promoted trio of South Shields, Scarborough Athletic and Hyde United but leading the play-off pack as the season nears its conclusion, were indebted to goalkeeper Ben Barnes for a terrific double save on thirty four minutes that prevented Colls from doubling their lead, firstly blocking Adam Farrell’s sweetly struck volley and then doing well to deny the same player from the rebound.
Although keenly fought and eminently watchable in its own way, neither side threatened the scorers for much of the second half before Hartley came up with a smart stop from Prescot substitute Lloyd Dean three minutes from full-time, with Colls then promptly breaking and beating the offside trap with three players haring through on goal, only for Hardcastle to drag his effort wide of the target.
The visitors thought they’d grabbed an equaliser as the game ticked in to stoppage time with the Cables following already celebrating Harry Cain’s effort levelling the scores, only for the ball to instead rebound off the inside of the post without crossing the line and giving Colls the chance to clear their lines and claim all three points from an entertaining encounter.
Colls are back in Kensite Stadium action as soon as this Thursday (26th April) when Ramsbottom United are the visitors for a 7.45pm kick off ahead of the league campaign wrapping up on Saturday (28th April, 3pm) with a visit to high-flying Bamber Bridge before Micheal Clegg’s side take part in the Integro League Cup Final against Coalville Town at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena on Wednesday 2nd May (7.45pm).
Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Dave Sherlock, Gareth Peet, Lewis Doyle, Danny Lafferty ©, Matt Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Daniel Lambert, Adam Farrell (Marcus Cusani 75’), Iain Howard, Liam O’Neill. Substitutes (not used); Glenn Matthews, Jonny Hurst, James Sigsworth
Goal(s): Ben Hardcastle (penalty 16’)
Prescot Cables: Ben Barnes, Valter Fernandes, Reece McNally, James McCulloch ©, Louis Coyne, Baba Conte, Harry Cain, Jordan Wynne (Aaron Turner 78’), Josh Klein-Davies (Morgan Homson-Smith 71’), Chris Almond, James Edgar (Lloyd Dean 71’). Substitutes (not used); Dan Burns, Joe Herbert
Match Report: Matt Lawton