Scarborough Athletic away is a fixture that brings home how far the Collieries have come in recent years. A huge club with big ambitions, Scarborough have such an illustrious past behind them, both in their current form and in the club is now no more. On Saturday though the two sides met as equals, the Colls provided the East Yorkshire outfit with their toughest test to date. Not our words, theirs.

With over a week’s rest behind them, Clegg’s side came into this game ready and refreshed. With just Ryan Salmon injured, Jordan Cover led the attacking line with a midfield five behind him.

902 attended this first ever meeting between the two sides; this is where the Collieries deserved to be.

In truth, this game was a tight affair from the very opening. Scarborough registered the first effort with just three minutes played. As they attacked from the off, a ball was squared to Nathan Curtis in the centre of the Colls area. Luckily, the forward had not yet settled and tapped well wide of the mark.

Cover is always central to any Colls forward move. The strikers pace and strength is something this division has not yet adapted to. On nine minutes, a zipped ball along the Flamingo Land Stadium’s plastic surface was taken wide by the forward. Using skill and awareness, Cover cut-inside before he curled a smart effort at goal from the far-post. Athletic were reprieved as the ball curled behind for a goal-kick.

Unfortunately, with either side looking like they were going to break the deadlock, the Collieries were undone on 22 minutes. A cross into the area was latched upon well by Scarborough’s Michael Coulson. The rather tall forward headed the ball across goal and towards the back of the net. Initially, it looked as if the Colls defence were able to claw it away off the line, however Coulson’s fine header was just too powerful and it was deflected into the back of the net.

Atherton reacted well, playing with confidence but again Scarborough knew what they had to do. Ten minutes later they very nearly doubled their advantage but could only watch as Sam Hewitt’s header from a corner bounced back off the bar.

It really was an end-to-end half of football, what this level is all about. Harsh tackles, confidence in attack and bravery. The last effort of the opening 45 fell to Ben Hardcastle, three minutes from time. The winger, inside the top right hand corner of the area, turned and released a relatively dangerous effort on goal. Tom Taylor had to be alert to get down low and fast to prevent a Collieries equaliser.

If the first half was a good, solid 45 minutes of football, then the second was a fantastic display from Clegg’s men. The black and whites couldn’t have done any more but unfortunately, the return trip to Atherton was that of an emptyhanded one.

Defender Danny Lambert opened the half as he sliced a stray effort wide on 49 minutes, but this was a sign of things to come for the Colls faithful (who again travelled in their numbers and made a vast amount of noise throughout the game) as Atherton attacked and attacked.

A breakage in this on 59 minutes saw chaos in the Collieries box. From a corner, Clegg’s men simply couldn’t clear their lines and, as a result, the ball pinballed around the area. Eventually though, a thumped clearance up field was delivered and every Lancastrian in the ground breathed a sigh of relief.

For the last twenty minutes of the game Atherton dominated. There is simply no other word for it. With respect to our opponents, they didn’t know how to cope with the Collieries forward force.

On 71 minutes Hardcastle curled an effort wide after laying himself off on the edge of the area. Four minutes later Gaz Peet came closest as again, from a similar position, a sublime shot on goal was only denied as it rattled against the bar.

Substituting Brad Cooke into the game was the best decision Clegg made all afternoon. For the remainder, the midfielder acted as a target-man as he won every ball and made Scarborough’s defence afternoon a nightmare. Two headers in quick succession came and went. The first saw Cooke head just over but the second looked destined for the back of the net. Only a backpedalling wonder-stop from Taylor prevented a heroic equaliser, the stopper somehow tipped the ball over the bar.

Ultimately, it was not meant to be. The Colls worked so unbelievably hard throughout the second period of the game as they pushed Scarborough all the way. If anything, it simply solidified our belief that we belong in this league.

The supporters were, once again, simply sublime. Despite being outnumbered 10-1, their chants rang around the Flamingo Land Stadium throughout the period of the game.

Next Saturday, we welcome Droylsden to the Kensite.

Scarborough Athletic: Tom Taylor, Sam Hewitt, Dave Merris ©, Jamie Price, Daniel Stimpson, James Knowles, Ross Daly, Luke Dean, Nathan Curtis, Michael Coulson, Max Wright – Substitutes: Nathan Valentine, James Cadman, Billy Logan, Jimmy Beadle and Tom Morgan.

Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny (80’ Brad Cooke), Gaz Peet, Daniel Lambert (65’ Josh Messer), Daniel Lafferty ©, Chris Lynch, Ben Hardcastle, Sebastian Julien, Jordan Cover, Iain Howard, Glenn Mathews (66’ James Sigsworth) – Unused Substitutes: Jack Stewart and Laim O’Brien.

Attendance: 902

Match Report: Zach Pierce

Photography: David Featherstone

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