Colls made the trip to Cheshire to take on the Bears of Congleton and following a thoroughly professional display returned home with another three points in the locker to keep the pressure on the league leaders, Bootle.
Looking resplendent again in their change colours of green, Michael Clegg’s boys started on the front front and created a plethora of opportunities in the opening ten minutes. Mark Battersby had an effort cleared off the line while Mark Truffas rose like a salmon to meet Dave Sherlock’s teasing free kick but the free header cleared the bar. Colls weren’t to be denied for long mind and in the next attack Truffas was upended by Bears keeper Ross Heywood in his area for a nailed on spot kick which Battersby duly converted. Only giving Heywood a caution was the right decision.
The advantage was doubled midway through the stanza. A pinpoint free kick reached Matty Grimshaw just beyond the back post and he showed rare skill for a centre half to cushion the ball into the six yard box which Sherlock bravely bundled over the line.
The visitors were dominant by now and ex Colls defender Callum Jones had to show good awareness to block a Bradley Cooke shot.
It was 3-0 on 36 minutes. Truffas ghosted to the byline and chipped the ball back to Neil Chappell to smash into the roof of the net for his first Colls notch. Congleton’s best effort of the half had happened when they were pulled up for offside with the ball in Adam Reid’s mitts. Confusion ensued when Reid rolled it out nonchalantly to a defender to take the free kick only for the ref to say play on. The defence had relaxed and the ball was pick pocketed. Fortunately the attack fizzled out to end the controversy.
Henoc Mukendi replaced Battersby during half time and from the outset proved to be a handful for the home defence. His close range header shaved the post and he lost his footing when attempting to fire home form close range.
Congleton were having more of the game but clear cut chances were being kept to a minimum. With about 20 minutes remaining and the game seemingly meandering to it’s closure there was a flashpoint incident. Town number 10 Scott Baker spitefully and needlessly upended Jake Kenny as he was sprinting away from him. As Kenny lay prostate on the ground there was a brief melee. When order was restored Grimshaw was shown a red card for violent conduct while the perpetrator Baker was a lucky boy to escape with just a yellow.
Despite playing with the numerical disadvantage the green’s continued to pour forward and on 87 minutes the icing was put on the cake. Ben Hardcastle ran from his own half and drew Heywood before unselfishly teeing up Mukendi to tap in a very popular goal with teammates and fans alike. Henoc is a new cult figure in waiting. Gareth Peet still had time to almost make it a nap hand but his blockbuster from out wide only just missed the target.
One of the performances of the campaign; especially in the first 45 minutes. The management team has stressed all week that this was the game what mattered and had the team fully focused despite the runaway hype surrounding the Cleethorpes FA Vase.
Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Matt Grimshaw, Jamie Forbes, Neil Chappell, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, Mark Truffas, Dave Sherlock – Substitutes: James Brooks, Henoc Mukendi, Josh Messer, Vinny Bailey, Liam Wood
Match report by Emil Anderson
Photograph by David Featherstone