Skipper for the night Ben Hardcastle was able to celebrate his 200th Colls appearance in style as a late Jordan Cover strike earned all three points on the road at ten man Kendal Town.
Having put high flying Scarborough Athletic to the sword with two quick fire goals in Colls’ 2-1 victory at the Kensite Stadium on Saturday, Cover spent the first 52 minutes of this encounter sat on the bench in the midst of another particularly busy week for the black and whites before being introduced for Iain Howard.
Even before his goal scoring heroics, Cover showed the threat posed by his blistering pace, being dragged down on the edge of the penalty area by Stuart McDonald as he looked to pull away from the Kendal skipper who was shown the red card as a result.
The home rear-guard became ever more stubborn as the ten men looked to preserve their clean sheet, but that evaporated with eight minutes remaining when Glenn Matthews dissected the Cumbrian back four to send Cover clear on goal, and he blasted a first-time rasping strike that flew in to the net in spectacular via the underside of the crossbar.
In something of a scrappy first half, the hosts arguably had the better of the game, Steven Yawson twice firing over the bar when in a good position, firstly when nipping in behind Jake Kenny on 15 minutes before putting the ball on to the roof of the net on 35 minutes after being played in by Bradley Carroll as the home side broke quickly forward from a misplaced Colls corner kick.
Although it was a first half largely confined to midfield, Colls weren’t without their own chances, Kendal goalkeeper Matthew Johnson doing well to stand up to Hardcastle’s 8th minute shot as the double centurion latched on to Ben Thomas’ poorly struck back pass, while Johnson smartly tipped over a Liam O’Neill shot on 28 minutes.
With the scores level at the break, Colls were indebted to goalkeeper Greg Hartley for coming up with a world class save just before the hour mark, superbly palming away a Yawson strike that came through a crowd of bodies and must have only appeared in front of Hartley at the last second after the ball had broken to Yawson on the edge of the area from a Kendal free kick on the right flank, before Cover found his stride, bringing McDonald’s red card on 73 minutes and, nine minutes later, the only goal of the game.
The final stages weren’t without further drama, however, as first it was a heart in mouth moment as Hartley raced out of his goal with four minutes left and clattered Yawson just outside the penalty area, but it was relief all round for the sizeable Colls following as Hartley was shown only a yellow card and the free kick was eventually cleared via a spell of penalty area pinball.
The ten men of Kendal suddenly fancied a point and left themselves open at the back with Colls breaking forward a minute from time, Hardcastle coolly rolling in substitute Gareth Peet, but his drilled effort was tipped over for a corner, while a couple of minutes later Hardcastle was again the provider, teeing up Cover for a shot that grazed the crossbar before the final whistle was eventually blown and Colls were left to celebrate victory and mathematically seal safety in their historic first ever season at this level.
Colls are back in action as soon as this Thursday (29th March, 7.45pm kick off) when Ramsbottom United are the visitors to the Kensite Stadium for an Integro League Cup Quarter Final.
Kendal Town: Matthew Johnson, Danny McGahon, Ben Thomas, Paul Dawson (Christopher Wraighte 71’), Gavin Clark, Stuart McDonald ©, Matthew Clarke, Sam Staunton-Turner (Daniel Penswick 46’), Richard Seear (Jacob Davis 73’), Bradley Carroll, Steven Yawson. Substitutes (not used); Mark Buchan, James Nichols
Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Jake Kenny, Glenn Matthews, Josh Messer, Matt Grimshaw, Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle ©, Dave Sherlock (Daniel Lambert 71’), Adam Farrell, Iain Howard (Jordan Cover 52’), Liam O’Neill (Gareth Peet 61’). Substitutes (not used); Brad Cooke
Goals: Jordan Cover (82′)
Match Report: Matt Lawton
Photo: Ian Monk