The black and white stripes gratefully returned to league action The Skuna Stadium after doing almost 850 miles of travel in the previous fortnight following trips to South Shields, Gainsborough and Morpeth. FC United of Manchester were the opposition for a third meeting of the campaign with John Welsh, Michael Brewster and Danny O'Brien making their home debuts for Michael Clegg's team. Colls started the game with vim and pep and on five minutes took the lead. Tom Bentham took a lovely weighted ball from midfield in his stride and confidently slotted past Cameron Belford. It was a quality start from the hosts who were back on their own manor for a first time in a month but a couple of spurned clearcut opportunities kept the visitors within striking distance and there was a sting in the tail on the half hour mark. A game of pinball in the Colls' box eventually saw ace poacher Tunde Owalabi equalise from yards out. If FC's opener was scruffy their go ahead strike ten minutes later certainly wasn't. Oli Byrne punched clear only for Michael Potts to laser missile his shot from distance into the top right hand corner of the net. Pure quality! Colls weren't done and Cover finished well to make the scores on the doors at the end of a breathless first half 2-2.
The second half was equally as competitive with two well matched teams going at it hammer and tongs. On 53 minutes the visitors regained the lead for a second time. Regan Linney was given time and space to bend another unstoppable effort past the unfortunate Byrne. With fifteen minutes remaining Colls thought they were back on level terms. Cover rose highest at the far post to nod home a teasing Brad Lynch centre. As he celebrated and the FC defence berated each other the liner's raised flag elicited a totally different reaction from each camp. A tight, tight decision that will make for lively debate. Colls pushed the excellent Niall Battersby forward to rescue a point and the game became stretched. FC tried to capitalise on the break but Cover very nearly had the last word. In stoppage time he controlled beautifully a precise Battersby cross but gut wrenchingly his finish was well over the bar with the relieved FC defenders in no man's land.
The Rebels players and their lively supporters celebrated their triumph with vigour. Manager Neil Reynolds must have set an Alder Street All Comers 'High Fives' Record and his brief singing turn in front of the Emirates Tunnel was palatable. For Colls it was a case of what might have been and Michael Clegg will be well aware they had enough chances to get something out of the game. The flag which chalked off Cover's header may have been right but it may have been wrong. However without a whiff of sour grapes Colls now trail a trend forming 0-3 in decisive match altering decisions against their red shirted opponents after a trio of match ups. On the plus side 'experts' tell us these decisions equal out over the course of a season.
Finally thanks to both sets of supporters who made a cracking atmosphere for the players. Atherton Collieries: Ollie Byrne, Clive Smith. Gareth Peet (C), John Welsh, Josh Thompson, Niall Battersby, Michael Brewster (Brad Lynch 62'), Vinny Bailey, Tom Bentham (Ben Hardcastle 79'), Jordan Cover, Danny O'Brien (Ben Conway 72')Goal(s): Tom Bentham (5'), Jordan Cover (43')Rama Spice Man of the Match: Niall Battersby Attendance: 1,019