Having won three from three of their away games this season, Colls were on the road again. The road in question this time being the M6 and its toll counterpart. Chasetown is the furthest we have ever travelled for a league away game, ideal for a Tuesday night! Fortunately the roadwork section was kind to us on the journey down at least. Chasetown were initially allocated to the Southern League's Central Division, however Andover Town's withdrawal from Step 4 resulted in a countrywide reshuffle, with Brighouse Town moving easterly and our opponents who had planned for a season in the Midlands being moved back northerly.
Colls welcomed back keeper Greg Hartley and he was immediately called into action to palm away a Chasetown free kick with seconds on the clock. Following that bright opening, it was Colls who made all the running, patiently building from the back to free Gaul and Conway on the wings, the width of the wet pitch looking like it could be to our advantage. Our first sight of goal came on 7 minutes as Cover ran at the defence, twisting past two retreating men, but being thwarted by the giant frame of custodian Curtis Pond.
The doubling up on Colls first half danger man Conor Gaul was allowing space for Ben Hardcastle in a more central role. Twice he was unable to benefit from rebounds after the keeper failed to hold Cover shots. In between these chances, an over hit Chasetown cross looked in danger of dipping into Hartley's net. From the resulting corner, James O'Neill and Muzzy Nduna combined to direct the ball onto Colls' post.
The closest we came to a goal in the first half came in stoppage time, as George Cater hit a shot from distance onto the top of the crossbar. Credit to Colls' defence for restricting Chasetown to chances from set-pieces and distance.
With the returning Gaz Peet replacing Glenn Matthews following the break, the second half continued in the same fashion with Colls edging possession. On 58 minutes, Cover's pace got him away from the defence, coming in from the right. Pond in the Chasetown goal again saving well, this time with his feet at the near post.
The defining moment of the game came on 71 minutes when Callum Spooner on a rare foray forward was able to pick out captain Vinny Bailey in space on the edge of the box, an unerring finish past the dive of Pond to open the scoring and cause pints to be flying behind the goals.
From this point on, the game was mainly Colls hunting for a second goal to finish the game off. Within the space of two minutes, both Cover and Hardcastle found themselves in the box with their backs to goal, the second chance leading to a superb save from the scrambling Pond to keep the game alive.
Deep into injury time, Chasetown launched a long throw into the Colls box, with just Pond in his own half, Colls were able to regain possession and utilise the fresh legs of James Sigsworth to break at pace. Again Pond was on hand to deny Colls a second goal before the referee signalled time. The three points propelling Colls into second place in the league.
Thanks to Chasetown Football Club for their hospitality and we look forward to welcoming them to the Skuna in March. Atherton Collieries: Hartley, Spooner, Matthews (G Peet 45'), Messer, Grimshaw, Lambert, Gaul (Giverin 68'), Bailey(c), Cover (Sigsworth 90+2'), Hardcastle, Conway
Subs: Sigsworth, Giverin, G Peet, J Peet (unused)
Man of the Match: Ben Conway Attendance: 132
Photograph: David Featherstone