A dominant ninety minutes saw Atherton Collieries run out comfortable victors over visitors Clitheroe, taking advantage of the inactivity of title rivals Radcliffe to move four points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik League Division One West.
Having won a thrilling encounter 5-3 in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, Colls’ victory sealed a double over Clitheroe for the season, ending an Alder House hoodoo that has lasted since 1982.
Colls went in front in just the fourth minute of the game, Vinny Bailey shifting the ball from central midfield to Gareth Peet who cut inside from the left flank and burst forward in to the penalty area in familiar fashion, drawing a foul from Hyuga Tanner. Peet promptly dusted himself off and dispatched the resultant spot kick, despite the efforts of Clitheroe goalkeeper Ben Purdham, who got a hand to the ball as it headed towards the bottom right hand corner but wasn’t strong enough to keep it out.
Tom Bentham had a clear opportunity to double the lead on 20 minutes, firing wildly over the crossbar after Ben Hardcastle led a keen Colls breakaway, but Micheal Clegg’s side needed to wait only a further seven minutes before claiming a second goal.
There seemed to be little danger as Jordan Cover received a tricky bouncing ball with his back to goal twenty five yards, but he brought it under control on the turn and unleashed an unstoppable strike in to Purdham’s top right hand corner.
A third goal seemed somewhat of an inevitability and it duly arrived on 36 minutes, Connor Hughes’ left-sided cross being deflected in to the path of Hardcastle who diverted a scruffy left foot strike past Purdham.
Cover might have had a second of the afternoon six minutes before the break as he hared clear of the Clitheroe defence, but a poor final touch was enough for Purdham to seize his opportunity to clear the ball at the vital moment as Colls hit the break three goals to the good.
Having led the line in imperious fashion all afternoon, Tom Bentham got the goal that his performance deserved, running on to a delightful Cover backheel on 61 minutes and expertly fire past Purdham.
Hughes saw Purdham’s legs block a late attempt and Bentham had a shot blocked on the line in stoppage time but by that point it had long become a question of how many Colls would score.
With just a fortnight until the end of the season, Colls have a week’s rest before playing three games in the final week of the their Evo-Stik League Division One West title challenge as first comes a trip to face basement side Skelmersdale United at their temporary Prescot Cables home next Saturday (20th April, 3pm) before Trafford visit the Skuna Stadium on Easter Monday (22nd April, 3pm) ahead of a final day trip to face Staffordshire outfit Newcastle Town (27th April, 3pm).
Atherton Collieries: Chris Cheetham, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Dave Sherlock (Danny Lambert 70’), Danny Lafferty ©, Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle (Conor Gaul 65’), Vinny Bailey, Tom Bentham, Jordan Cover (James Kirby 63’), Connor Hughes. Substitutes (not used): Oliver Roberts, Matt Grimshaw.
Goals: Gareth Peet (4′ penalty), Jordan Cover (27′), Ben Hardcastle (36’), Tom Bentham (62’)
Twinshock Colls Mon IPA Man of the Match: Gareth Peet
Match Report: Matt Lawton