Yves Zama was the Nelson hero as Atherton Collieries’ defence of the Macron Cup ended at the third round stage with a resounding defeat at Victoria Park.
Micheal Clegg’s side famously won the then-Men United Cup last season with a dazzling 5-1 thumping of league champions Colne at Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium, but the dream of retaining the trophy came crashing down on a frosty Friday in East Lancashire.
The Macron Cup has brought welcome respite to Nelson as they struggle for league form, without a win in their last eight league outings, although they did leave the Kensite Stadium with a point earlier in the season after recovering from a 2-0 deficit to snatch a 2-2 draw.
Nelson took the lead on twenty minutes when Billy McKenna’s right wing corner found centre back Christopher Anderson, an imperious figure throughout, unmarked at the back post and made no mistake in firing past Colls goalkeeper Adam Reid.
Jordan Cover dragged a shot wide two minutes later after Dave Sherlock had picked out his run on the shoulder of the last defender, while Colls penalty appeals fell on deaf ears when the referee disagreed that Justin Pickering had been bundled over by Billy Grogan.
The hosts somehow failed to double their lead just before the half hour mark when they managed to hit both posts within a matter of seconds before firing wildly over the crossbar from the second rebound with Reid’s goal gaping.
The thirty third minute saw Nelson finally grab their seemingly inevitable second goal when Yves Zama did well to charge down an attempted clearance on the edge of the box and react quickest to find the bottom left hand corner of Reid’s goal.
Cover had a half chance on thirty nine minutes but was bravely denied by Daniel Lever to prevent the Colls front man from getting a shot away before Clegg made an early double substitution, introducing Mark Battersby and Ben Hardcastle to replace Darrhyl Mason and Dave Sherlock respectively.
Last season’s league visit to Victoria Park saw Colls start slowly with first a 2-0 then 3-1 deficit that they managed to overcome with a thrilling 4-3 victory, and it was going to need a similarly spectacular recovery if this outing wasn’t going to end in defeat.
The second half saw Colls create a host of chances to no avail with Battersby volleying wide and Cover having a shot deflected away inside the first ten minutes after the restart.
Battersby half-volleyed over the bar on the turn on the hour mark and again Cover saw an effort flash wide with half an hour still to go.
Liam Wood was brought off the bench for Matt Grimshaw as Colls looked to turn their pressure in to goals but continued to find themselves frustrated by the firm home defence.
Cover headed a Pickering corner over the bar before Pickering himself fired a shot in to the second netting, but it was arguably the hosts who came closest to adding to the scoring om seventy six minute when Colls defender Gareth Peet came up with a heroic piece of play to hook the ball off the line when Zama’s strike seemed to be looping in to the goal via Reid’s attempted save.
Lever was proving to be in inspired form in the Nelson goal and he made a terrific double save on seventy eight minutes, first blocking a Cover shot before keeping hold of Battersby’s rebound. A minute later and Lever was finally beaten, only to be rescued by the woodwork as Cover’s looping first time shot cracked the top of the crossbar having won the foot race between the pair to reach a ball through to the edge of the box.
That moment almost seemed to confirm that it wasn’t to be Colls’ night, and the icing was put on the Nelson cake on eighty six minutes when Yves Zama powered forward on the break and clinched the win with a similarly emphatic finish for his second goal of the evening.
Zama was denied a hat trick in the dying stages by a well-timed Peet challenge, but that won’t have concerned the hosts are they celebrated further Macron Cup progression.
With Colls now down to league and FA Vase commitments for the rest of the season, both are on the agenda in the next eight days with a Tuesday night return to East Lancashire for a league meeting with Barnoldswick Town before a long trip up the M6 to take on Northern League side Penrith in the FA Vase Third Round the following Saturday (3rd December, 3pm).
Atherton Collieries; Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Dave Sherlock (Ben Hardcastle 40), Daniel Lafferty, Matt Grimshaw (Liam Wood 61), Darrhyl Mason (Mark Battersby 40), Brad Cooke, Jordan Cover, Vinny Bailey, Justin Pickering. Substitutes (not used); James Brooks, Josh Messer
Match report by Matt Lawton
Photo by David Featherstone