Atherton Collieries’ interest in the FA Trophy was ended at the 2nd Qualifying Round stage as they were given a harsh footballing lesson by Evo-Stik League Premier Division visitors Marine, illustrating the stark difference of just the single division between the two sides. Marine went in front early on but the sides had been level at the break after a concerted period of Colls pressure brought a Chris Lynch equaliser, only for the visitors to notch up four second half goals – two of them in the final six minutes – to give the scoreline a somewhat lopsided look.
The game started in what can only be described as a robust fashion with no quarter given by either side as a number of challenges went flying in during the opening exchanges, with Colls captain Brad Cooke shown a yellow card after only five minutes for what was only one of a number of firm challenges in the midst of the battle.
Former Colls midfielder Vinny Bailey was in the visiting line-up and it was almost inevitable that he would have a major bearing on the fixture, and so it proved as he provided the assist for the first goal of the afternoon on eight minutes when he blocked an attempted clearance from home goalkeeper Adam Reid and crossed from the right hand side for Marine captain Danny Mitchley to finish in to an empty net.
Marine were playing at full throttle and went close a minute later when Mitchley’s effort floated over, before visiting goalkeeper Martin Fearon was called upon to acrobatically bat away an attempt from Ben Hardcastle after he’d burst forward via a neat interchange with Iain Howard.
The yellow card was evened up on the seventeenth minute when Darrhyl Mason tormented Anthony Callaghan down the right hand side of the penalty area and drew a foul from the Marine left back, with Mason heading over from Howard’s resultant free kick.
As the half hour mark dawned, Colls found themselves with much more of a foothold in the game and forced a flurry of corners in a five minute spell, the third of which came via a tremendous attempt from centre back Daniel Lafferty with an almost Paul Gascoigne-esque piece of skill, nudging the ball over a defender’s head before meeting the ball on the volley, only for it to be deflected wide. Two more corners followed in quick succession, with Chris Lynch heading agonisingly wide of the target at the back post before a scary moment for Marine centre back Adam Hughes when he headed marginally over his own crossbar.
The pressure finally told on 37 minutes when Iain Howard drifted yet another Colls corner in to the penalty area and this time Lynch was able to make amends for his previous miss, scrambling the ball home from the edge of the six yard box to haul the hosts deservedly level, with the scores remaining that way at the break.
Having done the hard work of earning the equaliser, it took only three minutes of the second half for that effort to be undone when James Murray was on hand at the back post to head a left-sided cross past Reid.
Bailey again exerted his influence on the game on 61 minutes as he threaded the ball through for Mitchley to take advantage of a high Colls defensive line and break through on goal to coolly slot his second goal of the afternoon past Reid.
Jake Kenny and Jordan Cover were introduced from the Colls’ substitutes bench on 65 minutes in an effort to get back in to the game, and Howard had a great chance to pull a goal back on 75 minutes when the ball broke to him inside the box but he put his effort wide after great work from Mason down the left hand side to create the opportunity.
With Colls trying to push for a way back in to the game, their defence understandably became more fragmented, allowing Bailey to claim the goal that his performance deserved on his return to the Kensite Stadium, showing neat footwork to dodge a couple of would-be challenges in the penalty area before picking his spot in Reid’s bottom corner on 84 minutes to put the higher-division visitors 4-1 to the good.
Reid producing a stunning save with a minute of regulation time remaining, tipping wide a Florian Da Silva effort, but there was still enough time for Marine to get a fifth goal as James Murray got his second of the afternoon to cap the victory for the visitors.
Having never before competed in the FA Trophy, it’s been a journey in to the unknown for Colls who had come through previous rounds with resounding victories away to Stocksbridge Park Steels and Kendal Town, but even a rare home draw wasn’t enough to see off such polished higher-division opposition as Marine, and thoughts now turn back to Evo-Stik League Division One North matters with a trip over the Pennines to face Brighouse Town next Saturday (18th November, 3pm kick off) before welcoming Skelmersdale United to the Kensite Stadium the following Monday (20th November, 7.45pm).
Atherton Collieries; Adam Reid, Kristian Holt, Gareth Peet, Brad Cooke © (Jake Kenny 65’), Daniel Lafferty, Chris Lynch, Darrhyl Mason (Glenn Matthews 81’), Josh Messer (Jordan Cover 65’), Ryan Salmon, Iain Howard. Substitutes (not used); Ashley Woods, Jamie Forbes
Marine; Martin Fearon, Peter Wylie, James Short (James Edgar 65’), Kenny Strickland, Adam Hughes, William Smart, James Murray, Michael Brewster, Danny Mitchley ©, Florian Da Silva, Vinny Bailey. Substitutes (not used); George Lomax, Liam Tongue, Michael Grogan, George Hassall
Referee; Mr L Raper
Match report; Matt Lawton