Gainsborough Trinity and Atherton Collieries are two sides looking to solidify some momentum ahead of a typically busy festive period. Currently residing in the lower echelons of the Betvictor Premier Division, Trinity and Colls met on Saturday in what was an unofficial six-pointer for the two sides. The Collieries fielded a familiar, attack-minded eleven. One new name on the team sheet, though, was debutant Danny O’Brien. The winger had a sublime first game in black and white and was influential in the Colls first attack of the game on three minutes. Gaz Peet was allowed the time and the space to pelt down his favoured left wing, as he weaved into the area the Trinity back-line panicked and brought the troublesome Peet down. Referee Gareth Davis took no hesitation in pointing to the spot. All eyes, then, on Tom Bentham who took the responsibly and slotted into the bottom right hand corner with ease.
Despite this early pressure on the Gainsborough goal, Atherton failed to take advantage through a series of half chances. Resultingly, as the half grew old the hosts came increasingly more into the game. Stopper Oliver Byrne, though, looked strong in the Collieries goal. His only real test came on 28 minutes as he was called upon to meet a testing shot at goal from Simone Russel, the offside flag was raised shortly after, though.
Trinity finished the half in control as Clegg’s men allowed them into the game but were reduced to long-range shots only. There was no real threat on the Colls’ advantage, shots from Ross Hannah, Russel and Harry Middelton sailed high and wide.
Early drama for both sides at the start of the second half ensured it would be a memorable one. Almost immediately after kick-off a stray back-pass from the Colls defence to keeper Byrne was soft enough for Trinity’s Hannah to intercept. The forward was thwarted in his attempt to round Byrne who was alert to everything, clawing the ball wide. A let off for Clegg’s men after such an uncharacteristic error. At the other end of the field, three minutes later, Atherton were awarded their second spot-kick of the game. A handball from a troublesome O’Brien cross the cause this time, Bentham’s effort saved by the keeper’s leg to keep Gainsborough in the game.
On 73 minutes it was Trinity’s turn to try their hand from the penalty spot. After a series of attacks from the home side frustration saw Curtis Morrison fouled in the area. Hannah came face-to-face with Byrne for this one, and the Colls stopper pulled off a sublime double-save from the penalty and its rebound to ensure the Collieries remained ahead.
With the lead so nearly snatched away, the Colls began to attack with real purpose to solidify what would be a fantastic three points on the road. Thanks to great play between O’Brien and substitute Jordan Cover, on 78 minutes they did just that. On the counter-attack, O’Brien broke free and pelted down the wing, opening up the Trinity back-line. Cover matched his run and, now into the area, latched onto O’Brien’s sublime ball across to deftly place the ball onto the traffic cone bizarrely placed in the corner of the net. As many Atherton fans observed, an early contender for goal of the season.
Ahead of what is set to be a busy week, these three points away from home will be key to the Collieries’ season; a first clean sheet, Cover opening his account, and a solid defensive showing starting with the palm of Byrne’s hand. Manager Michael Clegg spoke after the game about how pleased he was with the performance and how well the new signings have fitted into the team but stressed that without Byrne’s quality in-between the sticks this result would not have been possible. Atherton Collieries: Ollie Byrne, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, John Welsh (Dave Sherlock 80'), Danny Lafferty (c), Josh Thompson, Michael Brewster, Vinny Bailey, Tom Bentham, Ben Conway (Jordan Cover 70'), Dan O’Brien. Substitutes (not used): Niall Battersby, Ben HardcastleGoal(s): Tom Bentham (penalty 3'), Jordan Cover (78') Attendance: 408
Report: Zach Pierce
Photo: David Featherstone