The rather generic phrase ‘every game’s a cup final’ has been tossed around the Kensite Stadium quite a bit of late. Understandably so, as 2017 football rolls into Atherton every point matters, including the three picked up against an improved and in-form West Didsbury and Chorlton side on Saturday.
West came into their encounter with the Collieries on the back of a fine 4-3 win at home to New New Mills. The Colls on the other hand had the difficult challenge of living up to a sublime 4-1 win away at Shildon, which they did eventually do after going behind in the first half.
So, a close game predicted, a close game followed for in the opening twenty minutes there was very little to note. A sticky game arguably edged by the visitors from leafy suburban Manchester. West’s Joseph Shaw curling well over the bar the only thing to note.
Atherton, however, managed to break the midfield battle on 33 minutes, hitting the woodwork in the process. Liam Wood collected the ball inside a packed West area and with nobody free to pass to he tried a speculative effort. Unluckily it could only bounce back off the far left post and to safety. Minutes later, Josh Messer shot straight into the keepers gloves from the edge of the area.
The Collieries were soon punished for failing to take their chances as on 40 minutes took to lead. The defence failed to clear their lines and Martyn Andrews took advantage of this with a lobbed effort from the edge of the area. Adam Reid got a desperate touch on the ball but could not prevent it crossing the line.
Not to worry though, with one minute to go until the interval, Atherton struck level. Winning a free kick right of the West goal on the edge of the area, Gareth Peet curled a superb ball around the West wall, past stopper Dean Williams and straight into the bottom left hand corner of the goal. Relief around the Kensite and the majority of the 220 in attendance appreciated Peet’s superb set piece strike. It was only Peet’s second strike of the campaign, the previous was in the reverse fixture at the Recreation Ground.
The second half was as just as competitive as the first, Atherton edging it this time around though, controlling towards the conclusion of the 90.
Five minutes into the second portion of play, the Collieries struck the woodwork again. Neil Chappell collected the ball in midfield, the feisty midfielder shrugged West players away as he manoeuvred to the edge of the area. He then let fly with a rasper which cannoned off the bar with Williams beaten all ends up.
A couple of stray efforts came and went for Atherton, this wasn’t a problem as there was a feeling of a goal in the air, the hosts pressed and pressed and eventually took the lead on 65 minutes. Jordan Cover collected the ball under close scrutiny from a defender. He showed good strength to shrug off his marker before advancing into the box to curl to ball into the far corner of the net. West screams for handball in the build-up were given short shrift by the match officials.
Fifteen minutes later Atherton secured the three points through a sublime counter attack. Having defended a West corner bombardment the Colls eventually got away and moved forward akin to the charge of the light brigade. Dave Sherlock collected and advanced down the left wing up to half way before he sent a majestic long diagonal ball up to Cover. Cover collected and made his move into the area, the earlier goal scorer then turned to provider as he knocked the ball across to debutant Henoc Mukendi. The tall midfielder got his shot away which was cleared off the line superbly. To his credit Sherlock had not stood still admiring his wonder pass and was on hand to fire the rebound home. Great work from the trio of substitutes.
Yet again, the Collieries showed true grit to come back from behind. Steve Settle’s West side are a good side and will be disappointed to take nothing out of the game especially after taking the lead.
Manager Clegg predicted a tough afternoon with his lads needing to come down from last week’s FA Vase heroics and the standard of the opposition. Ultimately the three points were attained and pride can be taken in the performance. Attention is now switched to next Saturday with a trip to Congleton Town.
We started with a generic phrase, so we’ll end with one, ‘one game at a time’.