As we ascended to Step 4 of the non-league pyramid, we waved goodbye to competitions such as the fondly remembered FA Vase and said hello to competitions which if your outlook of non-league football is solely focused on Atherton Collieries were completely new to you, such as the Integro League Cup. I am reliably informed by aficionados of football at this level that it was previously named the Doodson Sport Cup, prior to a corporate merger.
Given the stature of some of the clubs from the Evo-Stik Premier Division in the draw, Colls made a slightly inauspicious bow in the cup, away to Skelmersdale. The game, watched by 101 supporters, mainly from the Atherton ranks, was lit up by two glorious first-half goals by Iain Howard, Colls being great value for their 3-0 win.
The draw for the second round paired us with promotion chasing and holders of the cup, Bamber Bridge. The game was eventually played in March after falling victim to the weather on no fewer than four occasions. Unfounded accusations of “pitch watering” had emanated from the Brig camp. In the absence of a sprinkler system as Alder House, the mind boggles with the logistics of that.
The game itself saw Colls out to gain revenge for their exit of the Lancs Challenge Trophy earlier in the season. It was the holders who took the lead on the stroke of half-time through the free-scoring Alistair Waddecar. The second half was to prove a seesaw affair. Substitute Iain Howard hit a shot which even eclipsed his efforts at Skelmersdale, an unstoppable rocket from distance straight in to the top bin. In the dying seconds, Colls thought they won the tie as a Marcus Cusani lofted shot nestled in the net. Brig had one chance to level the game, with the Colls faithful still celebrating, remarkably a Jamie Milligan Hail Mary flying scissor shot sailed over Greg Hartley and into the net to give us a penalty shoot-out. Hartley had the last laugh as he emerged the hero as Colls emerged victorious 4-2.
The next round saw another promotion chasing team visiting Alder House, as Scarborough Athletic arrived for their first visit of two in three days. This time it was a Glenn Matthews goal that took the plaudits as Colls ran out 2-0 winners, Dave Sherlock bagging the second. A defeat taken with a total lack of decorum by their local newspaper. Their sports hack must shudder at the mention of the word Atherton following being convincingly despatched on both occasions.
The quarter-final saw us host a familiar opposition, and another team from our own division in the form of Ramsbottom United, the only team to have inflicted a defeat upon the Colls since embarking upon their remarkable second half of the season run. Goals from Adam Farrell and Ben Hardcastle, on his 200th appearance for the club, put us into the semi-finals alongside Coalville Town and Hednesford Town from the Premier Division and our friends and eventual champions of our division, South Shields. With The Pitmen, Coalville and Collieries, there was now a distinct mining heritage to the competition at this point! An away draw to Hednesford presented the club with the opportunity to test itself against a club more used to competing in the higher echelons of non-league.
Join us from 2.50pm on Saturday, with input from Jake Kenny, Matt Grimshaw, Danny Lambert and Dave Sherlock, along with commentary from Brad Cooke, Gaz Peet and Jordan Cover. 7 of the starting 11!
Packages available via donation to our GoFundMe page:
Match ticket £5
Ticket, pie & pint £10
Family ticket £15
Squeeze Box VIP £20