The infamous black and white stripes put in an herculean shift in against the current top ranked outfit in the non-league game and with the rub of the green could have crafted a famous victory. The on fire National League pacesetters rotated their squad while Brad Cooke & Co settled upon the same side which downed Hyde United last time out. Colls took the lead as early as the second minute. Ben Conway volleyed sweetly past Bluebirds custodian Luke Simpson to the joy of the passionate home following. Minutes later the visitors had their best attempt of the half but unfortunately for them a deflected effort bounced off the far post and into Greg Hartley's grateful grasp. Colls were excellent in the opening stanza and really took the game to their illustrious opponents and were unlucky just to go in for the half time team talk just a goal to the good. Conway’s effort was somehow repelled by Simpson’s legs and Tom Bentham’s close range chance was also thwarted.
The Cumbrians should have equalised within minutes of the restart but Jack Hindle fired narrowly wide when it looked easier to score. Then controversy as Bentham looked to be clearly pulled back in the box by a desperate defender. The referee inexplicably cut short any whiff of protest much to the bemusement of all present. The official Barrow Twitter feed even blushed! Within minutes the game was level as Hindle, this time, made no mistake from a yard out after good work from Oliver Greaves. The Skuna fell flat for a few minutes until Vinny Bailey curled home a beauty to give Colls the advantage again. The hardworking Bentham unbelievably was sent off for a second yellow for hoofing the ball to the side of the dugouts amid the fervent celebration. Letter of the law maybe but his team had just retaken the lead against the creme de la creme of the non league game. A cold hearted decision. Bah bloody humbug!
Following the surreal minute or so of drama it was backs to the wall stuff for the Colls Collective as Golliath scented blood. The ten men defended with every sinew but could do nothing about an howitzer of a shot from Morgan Penfold which was past Hartley before he had probably blinked. Ian Evatt’s crew thought they had won it with seconds left on the clock but Hartley pulled off a save from an Oli Dyson sortie which beggared belief. The finest piece of goalkeeping seen on Alder Street for many a year.
A fine advertisement for the Buildbase FA Trophy. Colls will be a little aggrieved with a few of the decisions which went against them, the Bentham penalty denial will certainly be an after dark discussion topic. However it was a magnificent, gutsy display by the 5/1 underdogs who were accorded a rapturous reception at the end of the game.
Barrow AFC utilised their squad as is their prerogative as their major priority is quite rightly elsewhere. However they certainly didn’t want to lose the game and if there had been extra time they would have been already pencilled in to play FC United. The teams reconvene on Tues 7 January 2020 at the Progression Solicitors Stadium. Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, John Welsh, Danny Lafferty (C), Niall Battersby, Ben Conway, Danny Lambert (Dave Sherlock 72’), Tom Bentham, Vinny Bailey (Krissy Holt 80’) & Danny O’Brien (Iwan Murray 78’). Substitutes (not used): Cain Noble, Steve Kipre Rama Spice Man of the Match: Ben Conway Attendance: 478