Colls and Droylsden shared the spoils in what was largely a typical end of season mid-table scrap, though sadly it became something quite literal in that sense in stoppage time with proceedings somewhat marred by a stoppage time mass confrontation that resulted in – or perhaps more accurately – was sparked by a red card apiece for each side, with Colls’ Glenn Matthews and Droylsden’s Luke Daly given their marching orders for their part in a touchline fracas.
A draw would probably be considered a fair result, with Colls going in front somewhat against the run of play in the 28th minute with arguably their first decent attack before dominating much of the second half having been pegged back just two minutes before the break.
Colls may be partaking in the annual tradition of cramming in as many fixtures as possible, with the trip to east Manchester marking a seventh fixture inside a fortnight, but boss Micheal Clegg made surprisingly few changes to the side that defeated Ramsbottom United 2-0 in the Integro League Cup Quarter Final less than 48 hours previously, with only Liam O’Neill, Lewis Doyle and Marcus Cusani coming in to the side that secured a semi final fixture against Evo-Stik League Premier Division side Hednesford Town.
The home side starting brightly with Colls goalkeeper Greg Hartley doing well to use his legs to deny Liam Caddick after only three minutes of action, before showing a strong left hand to bat Sefton Gonzales’ effort over the crossbar.
Shaquille Antoine Clarke testing Hartley on his near post sparked something of a reorganisation in the Colls ranks in an effort to stem the tide, with Brad Cooke moving from right back to a more familiar central midfield role, with the Colls skipper never more at home than when he’s in the thick of the action.
The tactical reshuffle had an almost instant impact as Colls went in front on 28 minutes, Cooke showing a piece of delightful creativity to scoop the ball in to the path of Liam O’Neill who did a fine job in judging the flight of the ball over Jacques Kpohomouh’s head, nudging the ball inside the area before smashing the ball in to the bottom right hand corner of Richie Branagan’s net.
Droylsden still presented a threat, however, and levelled the scores on 42 minutes when Kpohomouh was left unmarked in the Colls penalty area to somewhat scruffily head past Hartley with what he would probably be the first to admit wasn’t a particularly clean connection.
It took only seconds of the second half for Colls to go within a whisker of regaining their lead as Ben Hardcastle flashed a shot agonisingly wide of the post, with Lewis Doyle going similarly close on 57 minutes after being teed up by Gareth Peet.
Hartley came up with his almost customary top drawer save to deny Caddick with six minutes remaining before the game descended in to farce as it ticked towards stoppage time, with an off the ball incident sparking a confrontation initially between Glenn Matthews – who had only been on the field for a matter of moments – and Droylsden’s Luke Daly but later the entire twenty two players and a few off the bench as well, at one stage seeing the pitch only contain the three match officials as they perhaps wisely decided against getting involved the melee, before things eventually calmed down enough for a somewhat surreal final 30 seconds to be innocently played out before handshakes all round.
Twelvth-placed Colls are back in action as soon as this coming Monday (Easter Monday, 2nd April, 3pm kick off) when Ramsbottom United are the Bank Holiday visitors, returning to the Kensite Stadium only days after their Integro League Cup Quarter Final defeat against Colls. With the games coming thick and fast, title-chasing South Shields then visit dowtown Athy on Thursday evening (5th April) for a 7.45pm kick off.
Droylsden: Richie Branagan, Shaquille Antoine Clarke, Ben Barber, Jacques Kpohomouh (Levi Phillips 77′), Dylan Smith, Mohamud Ali, Luke Daly, Eddie Moran (Callum Bagshaw 62′), Sefton Gonzales, Ciaran Kilheeney ©, Liam Caddick. Substitutes (not used); Dominic Smith, Shaun Holden, John Shaw
Goals: Jacques Kpohomouh (43′)
Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Brad Cooke ©, Gareth Peet, Daniel Lambert, Matt Grimshaw, Josh Messer, Liam O’Neill (Gary Burnett 85′), Lewis Doyle (Glenn Matthews 89′), Adam Farrell (Jordan Cover 70′), Ben Hardcastle, Marcus Cusani. Substitutes (not used); Jack Kenny, Chris Lynch
Goals: Liam O’Neill (28′)
Match Report: Matt Lawton
Photo: David Featherstone