As still the only side yet to concede a goal in the Evo-Stik First Division North, Clegg’s Atherton Collieries travelled to new neighbours Trafford on bank-holiday Monday both confident and determined to ensure this statistic stayed intact.
However, injuries to key players such as Jake Kenny and Ben Hardcastle meant the Collieries made the journey down the M62 slightly lighter in numbers than anticipated. Trafford, on the other hand, where at full strength and keen to register their first three points of the season, throwing everything they had at the black and whites. Ultimately though, nothing could separate the two sides, a share of the points the fairest result possible as both outfits demonstrated their worth.
Atherton’s game-plan was clear, throughout the rather sunny afternoon the black and whites were relentless in their exploitation of Trafford’s flanks. On five minutes Darrhyl Mason played a superb through-ball across the deck to Iain Howard, he managed to slice the defence in half. Howard, left of the area, drilled the ball across goal. Unfortunately, Trafford quickly recovered and hoofed the ball out of danger.
New signing Rhys Nevins impressed the Colls faithful before having to leave the field due to injury. 35 yards from goal, the midfielder battled with his Trafford counterpart to win the ball. Having done so, Nevins played the ball across to Mason on the right. The forward cut inside but could only watch as his tame effort tickled wide.
Two efforts came within five minutes of each other soon after. First, defender Jamie Forbes fired well over from a chaotic Colls corner move, and then Jordan Cover sent a poor effort slightly wide.
Despite numerous chances, the Collieries failed to make a break-through, as a result Clegg’s men went in at half-time frustrated.
It was clear that during the interval Trafford shook things up, a substitution and a change in playing style shook the Colls and, consequently, they started the second period of the game on the back-foot. The only answer for Atherton, long-balls, Trafford’s midfield simply too difficult to break-down, though a technique that almost worked for the Collieries, as seen on 49 minutes. A long ball towards Mason in the Trafford area was headed on by the player-of-the-month candidate. Josh Messer, deeper in the area allowed the ball to bounce before half-volleying at goal. Trafford stopper Grant Shenton was forced into a fine save.
After yet more relentless attacking from the home side, Trafford took the lead on 54 minutes. The Colls weren’t able to cope with a long throw into the area. Chaos ensued as the black and whites defence failed to clear their lines on numerous occasions. James Dean took advantage of this as he poked past Reid literally yards from goal.
Things went from bad to worse nine minutes later as Trafford were presented with a fine opportunity to double their advantage. After shouts of a Colls’ hand in the penalty area, the referee decisively pointed to the spot. Trafford’s Ash Woods stepped up and took responsibility, but the substitute could only watch as the ball rattled the cross-bar. Relief for Clegg’s men, this was a wakeup call for all.
Atherton grew more and more confident following Trafford’s penalty miss. On 69 minutes Mason once again sent Cover through with another fine attacking ball. Cover, closing the angle, fired the ball straight at Shenton. A rare mistake from Cover her, normally the relentless forward would snap these chances up.
However, the Collieries eventually found their equaliser on 73 minutes. Mason advanced into the Trafford area, one –on-one with Shenton, as the forward evaded the Trafford defence, he went to round the stopper when, as a last resort, he was brought down. Without any hesitation the referee pointed to the spot, the keeper denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. To the surprise of many, no card was produced but Clegg’s men just continued to go about their business. Howard planted the ball on the spot before sending Shenton the wrong way and equalising for the Colls.
Retaining the point was no easy job for Atherton. Trafford chance came after Trafford chance and the black and whites’ defence were worked over-time. The home side came closest with ten minutes to go when Kingsley Williams fired a pile-driver towards goal from the edge of the D. The ground fell silent, the ball was destined for the back of the net. Relief for the Collieries’ faithful as the ball bounced straight back off the post. Another let-off.
In the end though, a deserved point for Clegg’s men who worked hard to come back from behind against, arguably, our toughest opponents to date.
After the game, Gibbo managed to catch up with Manager Michael Clegg to hear his thoughts on the game. The interview can be listened to on our official audioBoom page.
Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Brad Cooke (C), Danny Lambert, Josh Messer, Danny Lafferty, Jamie Forbes, Rhys Nevins (Jordan Cover 20′; Dom Butler 88′), Kris Holt (Johnny Gorman 60′), Darrhyl Mason, Iain Howard, Gareth Peet – Substitutes: Jordan Cover, Jordan Grant, Matt Grimshaw, Johnny Gorman, Dom Butler
Trafford: Grant Shenton, Ally Brown, Louis Corrigan, Chris Palmer (C), Steve Mason, Keil O’Brien, Kingsley Williams, Scott Sephton, James Dean, Jack Dorney, Shiraz Khan – Substitutes: Ash Woods, Declan Rydings, Pauli Loukola, Timmy Raheem, Andy Keogh
Man of the Match: Brad Cooke
Match Report: Zach Pierce