A packed 70 seated coach made the journey down to Staffordshire on Saturday as both the ‘Crazy Gang’ and ‘Barmy Army’ watched a challenging 3-1 win for the Collieries.

Eccleshall and Atherton Collieries last came up against each other last season on the 23rd September 2013. A much warmer affair that day saw the Colls run out 2-1 winners. Charlie Stoker opened the scoring that day on the 38th minute of the game. With the game being pretty much equal throughout Eccleshall got their equaliser thanks Danny King with just nine minutes left on the clock. However, Kieran Halliwell made sure the visiting fans didn’t go home disappointed after dispatching his penalty kick to send the three points back to Atherton.

With the weather forecast being favourable, for once, everyone was confident the game was going to go ahead. This was confirmed via a Tweet from Eccleshall showing pictures of the pitch being in fine condition. As mentioned earlier, a 70 seated coach was filled with Colls and football fans alike all hoping for an Atherton Collieries win.

The Collieries made a bright start to the game as they passed the ball around the surface confidently. On three minutes, goalkeeper Danny Taberner found the run of Mark Truffas on the left wing and pinged the ball to his feet from the goal kick. Truffas collected and controlled the ball and passed it on to the overlapping Rob Swanton. Swanton made his way into the box from the left corner flag and chipped the ball into the box. The cross glided just over the bar.

However, despite this good start Eccleshall started to control the game a lot more and made life difficult for the Colls. On ten minutes Eccleshall took the lead. A defensive error at the back allowed Eccleshall’s Angelo Enrico to break through and cross the ball into the box. Taberner made a superb save from the original header but didn’t manage to get a hand to Steve Hughes’ follow up as Hughes poked home.

This was a wakeup call for Atherton who started to be more purposeful in attack as they looked for the equaliser, and on 19 minutes, they got it. Kris Holt played a defence splitting ball through to forward Mark Battersby who ran onto it and was one-on-one with Eccleshall goalkeeper Brandon McEleny. Battersby chipped the ball over McEleny to get his 39th goal of the season and the Collieries first of the game.

Atherton at this point controlled the game however, Eccleshall still managed to make it difficult for the Colls as they proved to be a tough outfit in midfield. As a result of an Eccleshall move on 31 minutes captain Ryan Greene fired his shot at goal from the edge of the area. However, Taberner did well again to make another good save.

Minutes later, Atherton were awarded a free kick following a hand ball no more than a yard away from the Eccleshall box. Mark Truffas set himself up to take the free kick. Truffas did very well to curve the ball around the wall however, McEleny grasped onto the ball with his hands to prevent it from going into the back of the net.

It was an individual piece of defensive skill that prevented the Collieries from taking the lead. Jake Kenny hit the ball long for M. Battersby to chase onto. M. Battersby chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper (similar to his early goal). However, Eccleshall’s Jack McKay got back and covered extremely well for his goal keeper to clear the ball off the line and well away from danger.

Half Time – Eccleshall 1-1 Atherton Collieries

It was more of the same for the second period, both sides competing in what was definitely a midfield battle. However, on 58 minutes M. Battersby got his second goal of the game to add to an already impressive tally for the season. A cross was drilled in from winger Ben Hardcastle, Hardcastle spotted M. Battersby’s run perfectly. M. Battersby tapped the ball into the bottom left hand corner to take Atherton into the lead.

Eccleshall’s Enrico was having a fantastic game and he nearly grasped the equaliser for Eccleshall on 81 minutes. From a Colls throw-in Eccleshall won the ball in midfield and Enrice capitalised on that. Having twisted and turned his way around Atherton’s midfield he let fire, his shot however flew just wide of the mark.

With only five minutes left on the clock the Collieries looked to make the game safe as Eccleshall were still causing problems. Atherton counter attacked from an Eccleshall corner. The ball was played out to M. Battersby in midfield; having taken a touch M. Battersby passed the ball onto the overlapped Holt. Holt continued his run into the Eccleshall box and passed across to Jake Kennywho was making the late run. Unfortunately for Kenny his shot flew well over the bar.

A minute from time, the Colls ensured the three points were going back to Atherton. The ball was played through to M. Battersby who simply chipped over the onrushing McEleny. M. Battersby now had his hat-trick and 41st goal of the season, doing it in style, having made the chip look easy.

Full Time – Eccleshall 1-3 Atherton Collieries

Another fine Colls win against a very tough and talented Eccleshall side. The support that backed the Collieries on Saturday was superb and we would like to thank everyone that turned out to cheer on Michael Clegg’s side, much appreciated.

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