This year’s Jolly Boy’s outing took the Collieries to the Welsh seaside town of Conwy, home of Welsh Alliance Football League side Conwy Borough.
A coachload of Athertonians made the journey west to one of Britain’s most scenic grounds. Indeed, the Y Morfa Stadium is overlooked by beautiful Welsh mountains, the greenery sitting on the footstep of the tangerine’s home ground.
Fielding a strong Colls side, Clegg once again looked for a positive result out of the third pre-season outing of this pre-season campaign with match fitness again key. However, Conwy defended well in the opening exchanges as the Atherton forward line were left frustrated a number of times. Indeed, on nine minutes they showed their worth as they dealt with two consecutive Colls corners well, clearing instantly on both occasions.
Stand out performances from Jordan Cover and Iain Howard were on show, Howard denied by a good save on 25 minutes as he fired a low, hard effort just left of the post. The same can be said for Cover seven minutes later as he was allowed to poke a loose ball at goal from the edge of the area. Conwy’s stopper prevented again, throwing a leg at it.
Breakthrough came on 38 minutes. Frustrated still by Borough’s strong defensive display, Brad Cooke went in search of the opening goal as he squared to trialist Mike Itela inside the area. The midfielder turned and laid off forward Cover, on the penalty spot, whose first time shot dinked in off the right post.
Seconds of the half remained when the Collieries doubled their advantage. Itela turned from provider to scorer as he slotted into the top right hand corner of the goal from a Howard cross.
Atherton did well to go into the break two to the good, and looked to build on this advantage in the second 45. On 52 minutes, the black and whites did just this. The confident Itela curled a superb ball towards the back post from the right side of the field. Cover tapped in under little pressure to register his second of the game.
The Colls were now dominant, they bossed possession in the middle of the park and came close with almost every attack. Again, Howard caused big problems for the hosts’ back four, and was rewarded for his efforts on 70 minutes, scoring his first in a Collieries shirt. Nice link up play between both Howard and Cover saw the latter square it into the box from the by-line. Howard’s initial shot was well saved by Borough’s keeper, but the former Curzon Ashton star ensured his second attempt would be more successful, the ball bounced through and into the back of the net.
Throughout the afternoon Captain Cooke worked extremely hard, covering a number of positions including both right and centre-back. He was rewarded for his efforts on 76 minutes, scoring Colls’ fifth and final goal of this encounter. The ball fell to the midfielder turned defender (well, for this game anyway) from a corner, without hesitation Cooke instantly fired the ball into the roof of the net.
It had been a good run-out for Clegg’s men: five goals, a clean sheet and clear evidence of strong fitness levels. Pleasing individual performances came from both Cover and Howard, with Itela also raising a number of eyebrows throughout the 90.
Attention now turns to Wednesday night as the Collieries welcome a Bolton Wanderers XI to the Kensite Stadium, all are welcome!
Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Brad Cooke (Dom Butler), Gaz Peet (Mark Truffas), Josh Messer (Ben Hardcastle), Matt Grimshaw, Danny Lafferty (Brad Cooke), Mike Itela (Johnny Gorman), Ben Hardcastle (Jan Hornik), Jordan Cover, Iain Howard and Mark Truffas (Danny Lambert).
Match Report: Zach Pierce
Photo: Joseph Gibbons