Chasetown were the 126th unique and most southernly opposition to visit the Skuna in league action since Colls made the leap into non league pyramid football in 1971. The Scholars have real non league pedigree with the major highlight being a run to the third round of the FA Cup in 2007/08. This campaign has seen them slowly but they were now running into a tidy spell of form with Colwyn Bay their victims last time out. Colls made three changes from the starting eleven which won at Mossley two week previously. Danny Lafferty had booked a trip away overseas prior to this fixture being arranged and Ben Conway was now flying the Colls Mon flag in New Zealand having signed for Wainuiomata FC earlier in the week, Matty Grimshaw and Connor Gaul were the trusty replacements. In a tactical move James Kirby came in for Dave Sherlock. New signings Jamie Pollitt and Chris Cheetham were included in the sixteen man squad.
The Boys in Black n White almost made a dream start. Ben Hardcastle crossed to Gaul at the far post whose point blank downward header was miraculously saved by the feet of Curtis Pond This was the best opportunity by a country mile of an attritional opening period where both teams had spells of controlling possession. Ex Bacup & Rossendale Borough schemer Danny Cocks caused problems down the left flank as he managed to be to the byeline on a few occasions but the Colls rearguard were disciplined and snuffed out any potential danger. Visa versa the Chasetown defence coped well with what they had deal with and both teams went for the half time regroup content but with plenty of food for thought.
Within seconds of the restart Colls lit the blue touch paper. Kicking up the slope play moved from left to right of the Chasetown final third before James Kirby hit gold, shooting across Pond much to the delight of the home drew who were slowly streaming out of the clubhouse. Within a minute the loyal Chasetown faithful were celebrating an equaliser only for the lino to put a spanner in the works. A textbook near post header by Tom Hill from a whipped in free kick was chalked off by a waft of the flag. Pond again showed what a quality glovesman he is with an out of the world save from Gaul before the hosts doubled their advantage on the hour. Gaul again turned his defender inside out, his deep cross saw Kirby strike the ball into the ground and loop over both Ian Rowlands and a helpless Pond heads before nestling in the far reaches of the onion bag. The hosts were now the dominant force and a fully fit and effervescent Adam Farrell was denied on a couple of occasions by Mr Pond before Josh Peet smashed a screamer narrowly over.
A vital victory for The Collieries. The first half was a cagey affair with both teams not giving an inch. Cleggy's team were excellent after the break and a brace by 'The only Colls player from Congleton' James Kirby ensured a deserved three points. He was also the unanimous choice for Twinshock Brewery Colls Mon IPA Man of the Match. Next Saturday Colls visit Droylsden FC, ko 3pm. Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Oli Roberts (Dave Sherlock 46'), Matty Grimshaw, Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey (C), Tom Bentham (Josh Peet 86'), James Kirby (Adam Farrell 67'), Connor Gaul Report: Emil Anderson
Photograph: David Featherstone