Atherton Collieries put in a comprehensive performance against Jarrow Roofing to progress into the next round of The FA Vase. From the off the black and white stripes were in charge of proceedings and they rightfully won a game which has been labelled as one of the best performances of the season. Going forward Colls looked strong and at the back they looked equally as impressive as goalkeeper Adam Reid had precious little to do.

Coming into the match Colls were missing attacker Darrhyl Mason as he is cup tied having played for Widnes in the competition already this season. Winger Mark Truffas was in a more exotic location on holiday while defender Jamie Forbes returned to the bench following an injury. Jordan Cover took up a place on the bench, leaving Mark Battersby and Dave Sherlock to spearhead the Collieries front line.

Jarrow held their shape firmly in the opening exchanges, while Collieries did the same as the match looked like it would become a midfield battle. The side from the North East were physically more imposing and Atherton could have been forgiven for sitting back for a while to weigh up their unfamiliar opponents. However, they opted to push forward and came close to opening the scoring after eight minutes. 

Josh Messer it was who provided the first bit of excitement of the game as he hit a low effort towards goal. Roofing goalkeeper Andy Hunter did well to keep out the effort; the first of many to warm his gloves as the autumnal weather began to hit downtown Atherton. From the resulting corner, the ball was prodded across the face of goal following an exquisite turn from Vinny Bailey. Unfortunately nobody was on hand to apply the finishing touch.

Two minutes later and Collieries found themselves a goal to the good. Brad Cooke picked up possession in the centre of the pitch and fed the ball out wide to Ben Hardcastle. The winger in turn chipped the ball through to Mark Battersby who once again managed to chip the goalkeeper, sending the ball into the back of the net with the help of the right hand post.

Jarrow responded to this by throwing their centre half up front in an attempt to add a bit more of a presence. Striker Paul Chow, who has three FA Vase titles to his name, was getting very little joy against Matt Grimshaw and Danny Lafferty.

On 12 minutes, Jarrow could have found themselves further behind if it wasn’t for an incredible last ditch challenge. Battersby once again found himself through on goal and this time opted to take the ball around Andy Hunter. It looked to be an easy finish but a Roofing defender slid in to deny Battersby his second of the game. 

Colls carried on pressing forward and they doubled their lead on 24 minutes. It was a bit like pin ball, so was difficult to follow what happened. Dave Sherlock knocked the ball down the left hand side to Vinny Bailey. He in turn raced towards goal and had an effort denied by Hunter but he was unable to keep hold of it. The ball became loose in the six yard box and Bailey threw himself into a challenge against the Jarrow defender which doubled up as a shot. With force, the ball cannoned into the net off the right hand post.

The general consensus amongst the home fans was that if Jarrow could pull a goal back before the interval then we could be in for an entertaining second half. That goal never came and Collieries weathered a spell of Roofing pressure before the referee blew his whistle for half time.

Ten minutes into the second half Mark Battersby claimed his second goal to put Atherton 3-0 up and that was practically game over. Ben Hardcastle weaved in between two defenders and sent in a cross from the left hand side to the back post. It looked as if Battersby would hit the ball towards goal first time but he cut back inside, wrong footing the goalkeeper and then waited a couple of seconds before smashing home from a few centimetres out into an empty net.

Andy Hunter, in the Roofing goal, pulled off a fantastic save to deny Dave Sherlock on the hour mark. He picked the ball up on the edge of the area and hit a looping effort which Hunter managed to tip on to the crossbar and out for a corner.

Jordan Cover was introduced from the bench and he provided the cross for the fourth goal on 86 minutes. He carried the ball down the left and chipped in a precise cross on to the head of Vinny Bailey. The midfielder was unmarked and simply headed the ball back across the face of goal into the left hand corner. A fine move and one that allowed Colls to play with even more flare and confidence in the short time remaining.

A final goal was added in the final minute… and what a goal! Justin Pickering has been with the club since March and has always needed that first goal to get himself going. No matter how hard he has tried it just hasn’t fallen for him. This effort though makes all those matches of frustration seem like a distant memory. Gareth Peet raced down the left and swung in a cross to the edge of the area where Pickering was waiting, primed, having come on just moments earlier. On the volley from 25 yards he smashed it into the left hand corner and the whole of the ground erupted. His team mates swamped him and nearly ripped his shirt from his back as he ran off to celebrate with the coaching staff who joined him on the pitch for an impromptu celebration. One of the greatest Colls goals in many years and one that will be talked about fondly for a long time to come.

It was a spectacular way to round off a great performance and the players deservedly received a standing ovation from the home crowd as they went off celebrating in the changing rooms.

The prize? A trip to 1874 Northwich in the next round. Commiserations to our new friends at Jarrow Roofing. We wish you all the very best for the remainder of the season. Thank you for making the journey down and for staying around after the game despite the result. 

Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Josh Messer, Matt Grimshaw, Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle (Justin Pickering 82′), Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby (Jordan Cover 72′), Vinny Bailey, Dave Sherlock (James Brooks 78′) – Substitutes: James Brooks, Jordan Cover, Justin Pickering, Jamie Forbes, Robert Sadler

Attendance – 147

Match report by Joseph Gibbons

Photo by Rob Clarke

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