Matches between Atherton Collieries and West Didsbury & Chorlton tend to be exciting. Take the clash under the lights at Alder House in the 2013/14 season; a match that was dubbed ‘the winner takes all’. With promotion to the Premier Division up for grabs, West won 2-0 and broke Atherton hearts. Revenge, of sorts, was claimed on the opening day of last season when the two sides met at Brookburn Road. The side from Chorltonville were winning 1-0 with two minutes to go but up stepped Nathan Battersby to fire home twice in as many minutes to send the strong Colls support into raptures.
While this match certainly had less at stake with it being so early in the campaign, it was certainly a fixture that stood of for the neutral. Colls occupied third place coming into the match and were unbeaten in five. West meanwhile had hit a bit of a slump, winning just two of their previous five games. Regardless of this, Colls knew it would be a very tough match against a side who had started the season well and will no doubt get back to winning ways very soon.
Collieries were without centre half Jamie Forbes and striker Mark Battersby, while Nathan Battersby still remains on the sidelines through a hip injury. This meant that Danny Lafferty was re-introduced into the backline and he put in a strong performance, almost capping it off with a goal in the second half. Meanwhile, Darrhyl Mason was up top with an advancing Dave Sherlock.
From an Atherton perspective, proceedings couldn’t have got off to a better start as they took the lead on three minutes through Gareth Peet. He took a free kick from the edge of the area and curled it into the left hand corner past West goalkeeper Andrew Robertson. It was a far better effort than his own goal from the edge of the box in the winner takes all match all those years ago! (Sorry)
Colls built upon this early goal and looked dangerous going forward. On the other hand, West also looked dangerous going forward but often found their attacks stifled by an organised Collieries backline. 16 minutes in, Colls goalkeeper Adam Reid was called into action when a West free kick was whipped over the wall and into his safe hands.
Josh Messer was a standout performer for the away side. From memory he didn’t misplace a pass all evening and was always keen to get stuck in. Spreading the play out to the wings, he allowed Ben Hardcastle and Gareth Peet to have an enjoyable night as they took on their men and managed to get a number of crosses in.
On 32 minutes a Collieries player raced into the area and was tripped in the corner. Not sure who it was as a gaggle of us were otherwise preoccupied trying to prevent rain water diluting our Krombacher. With regular penalty taker Mark Ayres having left the club and Mark Battersby unavailable, the spot kick was handed to Dave Sherlock. He stepped up with confidence and tucked the ball into the bottom right hand corner past Andrew Robertson to make it 2-0 to Atherton.
Two minutes later and Colls came very close to further extending their deserved lead. Ben Hardcastle was released down the right hand side and carried the ball down the wing. West were threadbare at the back given the pace of the counter attack and as a result Brad Cooke found himself unmarked on the penalty spot. He directed his strong diving header towards goal but Robertson smothered the effort and allowed the home side a moment of respite.
With ten minutes of the half remaining, the home side should have pulled one back following a free kick. The ball was swung into the area from the right hand side and Colls failed to clear it. A scramble ensued and Ash Woods found himself one-on-one with Adam Reid, with the goalkeeper coming out on top following a strong instinctive save from close range.
There was on more goal to come on the stroke of half time. Colls broke down the right once again as Hardcastle and Vinny Bailey linked up. The latter sent a precise cross along the floor to Sherlock in front of goal. Brad Cooke was waiting at the back post and shouted to Sherlock to leave it. A smart dummy followed and Cooke had time and space to slot the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was a fantastic team goal and the players duly celebrated in front of the large away following at the clubhouse end of the ground.
West Didsbury started the second half far better than their visitors. They were first to every ball and played with the urgency which Colls had demonstrated in the opening half. Despite only coming back from injury for this match, Matty Kay did very well for West in the middle and was beginning to dictate the play around him. On 49 minutes, he found the ball in space but could only flash his effort wide of the goal.
There were no complaints when the home side pulled a goal back on 54 minutes; it was coming. Jonathan Poizer laid the ball off to Rick Ainsclough who fired the ball into the bottom right hand corner past the outstretched arms of Adam Reid. This goal woke Collieries up slightly and the game started to become stretched.
Despite this, it took until 70 minutes for Atherton to register their next substantial effort on goal. Substitute Jordan Cover had raced through on goal and unleashed a decent effort only to be denied by Robertson. The resulting corner was then headed on to the crossbar by Danny Lafferty; no rebound was available as the ball ricocheted off the bar and straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.
A minute later and Brad Cooke found himself in an advanced position once again, latching on to a cross from the left hand side. He couldn’t add to his tally as unfortunately his effort flew straight into the large tree next to the goal, showering the neighbouring spectators in a flurry of autumnal vegetation.
West Didsbury continued to pile on the pressure and came no closer to scoring than they had from their plethora of chances earlier in the half. There was a large cheer from the away fans as the final whistle echoed around Brookburn Road. Collieries were good value for the three points having put in a solid first half performance and then remaining resolute during the second.
The result leaves Collieries in second place following defeats for fellow promotion candidates 1874 Northwich and Bootle; Runcorn Town are the current table toppers.
Attentions now turn to The FA Vase when we host Northern League Division 1 side Jarrow Roofing Boldon Community Association on Saturday.
West Didsbury & Chorlton: Andrew Robertson, Richmond Botchey, Benjamin Woods, Martyn Andrews, Richard Ainsclough, Anthony Potts, Robert Black, Joseph Shaw, Ashley Woods, Matthew Kay, Jonathan Poizer – Substitutes: Jordan Poole, Dean Williams, Georgi Whyment, Carlos Mendes Gomes, Paul Socha
Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Joshua Messer, Matthew Grimshaw, Daniel Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle, Bradley Cooke, Darrhyl Mason, Vincent Bailey (James Brooks 90′), David Sherlock (Jordan Cover 68′) – Substitutes: Jordan Cover, James Brooks, Justin Pickering, Robert Sadler, Lewis Coleman
Photo by David Featherstone
Match report by Joseph Gibbons