For the third consecutive season, the Collieries welcomed neighbours Bolton Wanderers to the Kensite stadium for what is their showpiece pre-season friendly. Favoured by both sets of supporters and committee members, this game celebrates the Boltonian football scene with Non-League coming up against Football League, and the people of both Atherton and Bolton alike come out in their hundreds to support it.

As is always the case, the Whites sent down a young side. However, the experienced Ben Amos donned the Goalkeeper gloves and a number of trialists slotted into the starting XI, this was going to be a good test for Clegg’s men.

The quality of Bolton’s young guns shone through in the opening exchanges, the visitors making the better start. Adam Reid was forced into a good save eleven minutes in, the robust stopper threw himself in front of a strong effort on goal. A good early save for Reid who was presented with his NWCFL Goalkeeper of the Season award by Chairman Paul Gregory and Wanderers’ Manager Phil Parkinson before the game.

As the half grew older the Colls became more confident and played some fantastic football on the Kensite turf. Iain Howard was denied on 18 minutes, his pile-driver five yards from the Bolton box bulleted through towards goal with only Amos able to prevent. The ex-Manchester United keeper was called upon again 14 minutes later, Howard threaded the ball through to Ben Hardcastle inside the area. The playful right winger, yards from goal, was denied the opening goal as Amos jumped onto the loose ball.

Howard has been a superb bit of business for Atherton, Clegg and his team knew exactly the kind of quality the winger would bring to the Kensite. On 33 minutes this quality shone through. Deep in his own half, Howard bamboozled the Bolton midfield with a nice bit of footwork, the left wing was open to him. The winger pelted forwards as the Collieries were on the counter attack and played a pin-point diagonal ball across to Jordan Cover now inside the area. Without hesitation, Cover volleyed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal, Amos didn’t have a chance. A superb goal.

The Collieries had a good chance to double their advantage just before the interval. A defensive error allowed Hardcastle to pick a loose ball up on the edge of the area and advance one on one with Amos. However, Hardcastle’s tame effort was slotted slightly wide of the mark.

Second half was less of an exciting spectacle, indeed Bolton’s 55th minute equaliser provided the only real spark of the half. Youngster Cole Lonsdale curled a sublime effort into the top corner of the goal from thirty yards out, Reid had no chance. Unfortunately this goal came after a needless free-kick was given away by the men in black and white.

Ten minutes later and Bolton had a great opportunity to take their second of the game. Connor Hall couldn’t believe his luck as the ball fell to him six yards from a practically empty goal. Under pressure, Hall’s effort sailed well over the bar.

Despite being a pre-season outing, some fantastic football was being played on the Kensite turf. The rain allowed it to zip around and the 520 in attendance were evidently impressed by both sides. A nice, attacking move, which sprung from this aggregable football, on 74 minutes, saw the Wanderers take the lead. The ball was drilled across goal to Ryan White yards from goal. The forwards initial effort was well saved by Reid who could only parry the ball back towards the danger-man. At the second time of asking White thumped the ball into the back of the net, Reid almost getting a hand to it. No complaints from the Colls side, this was a fair and good finish from the Bolton side.

This lead only lasted two minutes however, Atherton bit back instantly as pre-season star Johnny Gorman slotted home the ball from close range in the middle of defensive chaos inside the Bolton area.

And that was that, another score-draw between the two sides. As eluded to earlier, some fantastic football was played between the two sides as experience came up against youth. The people of Bolton once again fully backed the fixture and a great atmosphere was enjoyed by all. The Colls look forward to the next one.

Match Report – Zach Pierce 

Photo – Ian Monk

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