A double from Jordan Cover and a goal apiece for Ian Rowlands and Dave Sherlock saw Atherton Collieries take advantage of their game in hand over title rivals Radcliffe and romp to a comfortable victory over Newcastle Town, returning to the top of the Evo-Stik League Division One West table in the process.
Colls boss Micheal Clegg made three changes from the side that came from behind to win 2-1 at Widnes at the weekend with a change in shape seeing Conor Gaul replaced in attack by Tom Bentham, with Dave Sherlock replacing Danny Lambert in midfield and a forced change in goal seeing the injured Greg Hartley replaced by Christopher Cheetham.
It took only three minutes for Colls to hit the front, Jordan Cover showed the quickest reactions to take advantage of a deflection in the penalty area to acrobatically beat visiting goalkeeper Jack Livesey, though the scores were levelled only seven minutes later, Christopher Smith beating Cheetham from the penalty spot after he had been bundled over in the area.
On a gusty evening at the Skuna Stadium, the Colls frontline were being delivered a succession of enticing balls in to the area, but it was actual via a central defender that the home side regained the lead on 39 minutes, Ian Rowlands thumping in a back post header from Connor Hughes’ right-sided corner, earning his side a 2-1 half-time lead.
The second half was only five minutes old before Colls had a third goal, Ben Hardcastle showing exactly the sort of quality that had earned him the coveted title of divisional player of the year at the Evo-Stik League awards the previous evening and curling in a beauty of a right-sided cross that landed right on a sixpence, drawing Cover in to make no mistake in grabbing his second goal of the evening and third two games with a first-time finish inside the area.
As the game ticked towards five minutes of added time, Colls really began to cut loose, Gareth Peet cracking a thunderous volley against the post after being set up by an audacious scooped pass from substitute Connor Gaul before Dave Sherlock claimed his side’s fourth goal, crowning a commanding man of the match performance in the Colls midfield by instead giving the impression of a seasoned striker, turning his man on the edge of the box and bending an effort past Livesey.
With just four games of the season remaining, it’s fair to say that the race for the title is now in full flow, with Colls back in Skuna Stadium action this Saturday (13th April) as Clitheroe make the trip to downtown Athy for a 3pm kick off. With the Colls looking to (once again!) gain promotion to the highest league level in the club’s history, you can play your part by getting behind Micheal Clegg’s black and whites. Admission costs £7 adults, £4 for over 65’s and students and just £2 for under 16s, with under 12s free of charge when accompanied by an adult.
Atherton Collieries: Christopher Cheetham, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, David Sherlock, Daniel Lafferty ©, Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle, Vincent Bailey, Jordan Cover (Matt Grimshaw 90′), Tom Bentham (Daniel Lambert 68’), Connor Hughes (Conor Gaul 74’). Substitutes (not used): James Kirby, Oliver Roberts.
Goals: Jordan Cover (3′, 50′), Ian Rowlands (39′), Dave Sherlock (90′)
Twinshock Colls Mon IPA Man of the Match: Dave Sherlock
Match Report: Matt Lawton