Lancashire Trophy: The story so far

On Tuesday Atherton Collieries visit the LFA HQ ground in Leyland to play in the semi finals of The Partners Foundation Challenge Trophy against a team who ply their trade a couple of levels above in the Evostik North League – Clitheroe. Our record in the competition over the years has been putting it mildly mediocre. Granted we have won the odd last 32 round clash which allowed us to play at places like Accrington Stanley, Morecambe, Chorley and Fleetwood Town but we have really been in the competition to make up the numbers. Paying our fifty quid entrance fee, losing in the first game and then not thinking about the competition again until a couple of complimentary tickets for the final drop on the doormat has been the norm rather than the exception. This year has been different. Ashton Athletic were our hosts in the first round of the competition as they were twelve months previously. We had started the season like an express train but we didn’t start the game well and deservedly went in for the half time oranges trailing 1-0. The break did us the world of good and our second half display was a joy to behold. Goals from Matt Grimshaw, Mark Battersby and Kristian Holt gave us a 3-1 victory. Uncannily we won 3-1 last season after being 1-0 down at the interval. In the second round we were drawn away at Radcliffe Borough from the Evostik North and a team who we had played and lost against in the FA Cup in the last two years. This season’s defeat was by penalties after two 2-2 draws so we knew there was little to choose between the teams. Disaster struck in the thirty fifth minute when our keeper Danny Taberner upended a Borough attacker on the edge of our box and as he was last man the ref had no alternative but send him for an early bath. Brad Cooke took over the gloves as we had no sub keeper on the bench. We were undaunted by this setback and after going a goal down early in the second half we showed true bottle to equalise when Mark Battersby set up Mark Truffas to score. Brad made a fine double save and Wes Bancroft could have won the game for us late on but he shot wide after being played in. As there was no extra time the game went straight to penalties. Both teams had missed a penalty when Mark Ayres made it 4-3 for us. Then like a Boy’s Own story Brad ‘The Cat’ Cooke saved the Boro’s fifth attempt to give us a remarkable victory. It was a satisfying moment for ‘The Cat’ as he left the field in tears after the FA Cup defeat having missed the vital penalty in the shootout. The quarters saw us entertain Ramsbottom United of the Evostik Premier League who under the guidance of Bernard Morley & Anthony Johnson had stormed through the leagues in recent years. They had been in imperious league form in the run up to game and they must have been pleasantly surprised after the team sheet exchange when they realised Mark Battersby was not playing. We were awesome on the night and took a first half lead when Jake Kenny set up Mark Truffas to curl the ball succulently into the top corner (I stole this sentence from the match report). With twenty minutes remaining the advantage was doubled when Jordan Cover outstripped the Rammy defence before finishing clinically. Ramsbottom then threw everything bar the kitchen sink at us and Grant Spencer pulled a goal back with a coolly taken free kick. However time eventually ran out for them and we were in our first ever Challenge Trophy Semi Final. The draw was made well before Christmas so there has been both a long and slow build up to the semi final. Clitheroe have won the Trophy on a couple of occasions in 1985/86 when they were managed by the legendary Eric Whalley and in 1892/93 although there is nobody around to remember the initial victory. I think this is our first ever appearance in the semi finals, in fact I am sure it is but we will not be going to make the numbers up this time. We acknowledge we are the underdogs by virtue of us operating a couple of divisions below our opponents but as we all know in cup footy upsets can happen. The management team of Cleggy, Warren and Scott were at last week’s semi final between Chorley and Holker OB and they were certainly impressed with the ‘bowling green’ pitch. These are the games you want to play in as a footballer and I am sure both managers will not need to say much to get their lads up for the game. We last played Clitheroe in the Lancs Trophy on Tues 16 November 1999 when we lost 2-0 at their place after extra time. Come what may there will be no extra time on Tuesday. I am not predicting a result or scoreline, I hope we win but regardless I just hope to enjoy the evening. It will be nice to go to LFA HQ for something other than a disciplinary issue! Lets make to club, the town and the NWCFL proud ! All together now ‘We’re on the march with Cleggy’s Army’   By Emil Anderson

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