On Monday night the Collieries welcomed Squires Gate to Alder House in hope that they would continue the fine run of form in which they are on.
Clegg and his management team added another couple of new faces to the team. Luke Giverin & Callum Jones were the new nameson Colls’ fans lips ahead of Kick Off.
It was Squires Gate who were handed the first opportunity of the game with a long throw that caught the Colls out. The aforementioned throw was allowed the bounce inside the area which in turn caused defender Mark Ayres to stall. Gate’s Joe Noblett was first to the ball as he latched onto it and directed towards goal. However, defender Nathan Battersby blocked and cleared away from danger.
As the game grew twelve minutes old Atherton had their first effort of the game. A Ben Hardcastle volley was well blocked by Gate after the lively winger received the ball from striker Mark Battersby on the edge of the area.
The first goal of the game came on 15 minutes and in favour of the Collieries. M. Battersby curled a corner into the heart of the packed area. New boy Callum Jones tapped in after what appeared to be a melee in the area.
A defensive punt forward four minutes later landed at the feet of M. Battersby on the edge of the area. The spirited forward collected, turned and fired straight into the arms of Benjamin Fletcher.
A nice Colls move amounted to nothing on 25 minutes. M. Battersby had the ball threaded through to him by debutant Giverin. The playmaker latched onto the loose ball, looked up and passed onto Kris Holt on the edge of the box who took a touch before he fired well over the bar.
Despite being behind, Gate attacked and attacked in search of an equaliser. On 34 minutes, Billy McKenna curled the ball into the box. Ryan Riley rose highest to head the ball just wide of the mark.
With five minutes to go until the interval, Atherton very nearly doubled their advantage. The ball was slipped through to M. Battersby who attempted to curl the ball around Fletcher. However, the goalkeeper did well to save and frustrate the striker.
Half Time – Atherton Collieries 1-0 Squires Gate
The second half began fantastically for the Collieries as they netted their second of the game on 49 minutes. The goal came from a Truffas free kick; the winger curled the ball from the edge of the area into the top corner of the Gate goal. Fletcher was left helpless. Truffas pointed directly to the home bench before being mobbed by his jubilant team mates.
The phrase you’re at your most vulnerable when you’ve just scored came to mind when Gate pulled a goal back four minutes later. Similar to Truffas’ earlier effort, Noblett hit a fine free kick that was fired into the top hand corner of the Colls’ goal – Taberner with no chance. The shot was opportunist to say the least and caught everybody in the ground by surprise.
Two minutes later and Gate had a fine opportunity in which they could have drawn level. Gate’s Josh Westwood found himself with a free header inside the Atherton area but he headed tamely over the bar.
If any Collieries fans felt edgy, those nerves were put to bed on 68 minutes when Hardcastle got his first of the game. A mix up at the back between the Gate defence and Westwood resulted in the ball being headed to the feet of Hardcastle. The midfielder (who has been on a fine run of form recently) coolly tapped into the now empty goal.
Eight minutes later and the Colls had four to their name. M. Battersby knocked the ball across goal for Jacob Jones to head into the goal from five yards out. This was his first touch of the game after entering proceedings just seconds previously. An inspired substitution.
Although outplayed Gate never gave up and on 87 minutes got a reward. Riley headed home after he found himself unmarked by the far post.
With minutes left on the clock, M. Battersby had a fine chance to convert from scorer to provider. The bustling forward collected the ball in midfield and powered through the defence before he found himself on-on-one with Fletcher. In this situation, Fletcher did well to come out on top and save.
With seconds to go, Hardcastle got his second. Jonathan Hurst played the ball through and Hardcastle did the rest.
Match report by Zach Pierce