A fourth consecutive Monday NWCFL fixture at Alder House saw Michael Clegg’s black n white stripes pitted against an AFC Darwen side sprinkled with players who had recent Colls service under their belts. The reverse NWCFL Premier Division fixture had been played a few weeks ago at the Anchor Ground with Colls putting in a slick display on a barely playable pitch to record a 7-3 victory.
Matty Grimshaw, Josh Messer and James Kirby replaced Callum Jones, Brad Cooke and Jordan Cover in the starting line up as the managerial team attempted to the keep the squad as fresh as possible for the long run in to the end of the campaign.
The visitors were by far the quickest out of the traps and Andrew Bell hit an early 20 yard shot across the bows which just cleared the bar. On 8 minutes they were ahead, ex Colls mon Keith Wedge crossed from the byeline and Nick Hepple scored easily from 6 yards out. What Wedgy was doing that far up the pitch remains a mystery. The advanatage was almost doubled when Jonathan Hession scorched down the right flank but his fizzing cross was just out of Hepple’s reach.
It was around the 20 minute mark when Colls began to warm to the task. Neat interplay between the Battersby’s saw Nathan in the box but he ungreedily passed back for Mark to shoot over when he was possibly in the better position. James Kirby was having his first start since coming back from a lengthy lay off and he had 3 goal attempts in a quickfire spell that had Darwen shotstopper Anthony Windle on his guard.
The equaliser came in the 36th minute and it had been coming. Mark Battersby set up Vinny Bailey who took the ball round Windle before finishing well from an acute angle. His first goal for the club. Battersby then narrowly put a crowd pleasing overhead kick wide. Darwen were struggling to get a sniff of possession and when Hepple was called for offside he hoofed the ball out of the ground in the direction of Tyldesley. We will never see that football again with Hepple perhaps the luckiest man ever not to get a caution.
On the stroke of half time Colls took the lead. Mark Truffas put Battersby clear and he deftly rolled the ball across Windle and into the right hand corner of the onion bag. Another fine finish.
The second half saw Colls continue to pile on the pressure. Kirby got his first goal since his comeback when he back heeled ‘Dennis Law’ style from a yard out after Windle had been unable to hold a fierce cross. It was no more than Kirby deserved and he left the field on hour mark to appreciative applause. Jordan Cover replaced him. Within five minutes Cover had made his presence felt. Ben Hardcastle burst clear and passed to Cover to score from 10 yards out. On 70 minutes Cover turned provider as he outstripped the defence before setting up Battersby for his second. Five minutes before the end Battersby repayed the compliment for Cover to get his brace.
A cracking performance by Colls for the final 70 minutes. The opening 20 minutes certainly belonged to Paul Marriott’s AFC Darwen side who played some enterprising football and with a little more luck could have been more than a goal to the good. Another excellent crowd generated a quality atmosphere.