A third minute Tom Bentham goal sent The Collieries to the top of the Evostik Division One West. The lads had a point to prove after a meek midweek performance at Garstang which ultimately saw a penalty shootout Lancashire Challenge Trophy defeat. They responded magnificently to Micheal Clegg's request to restore pride in the badge.
The hosts were the 127th Unique league opponents since Colls joined the pyramid in the early seventies and went into the game knowing that if they win their games in hand they would top the league. A closely fought encounter was anticipated and that's exactly was how it was borne out.
The match winning strike was excellently executed by in form targetman Bentham. From the edge of the box he whipped the ball into the far corner of the net following good hold up play from Jordan Cover. Ben Hardcastle soon rattled the advertising hoarding from distance and Danny Lafferty nodded a far post effort over the bar from a pinpoint Vinny Bailey free kick. Leek were keeping the ball very well but never really looking likely to test Greg Hartley goal. Colls created some more openings, Bentham narrowly prodded wide after yet more good build up before a galloping Dave Sherlock excursion into foreign territory ended up with him smashing over.
Leek had oodles and oodles of the ball in the second half, playing some top quality stuff. However the Colls rear guard were very, very disciplined in their resolve to keep a precious clean sheet. The team defended from the front and the blue shirted hosts struggled to create many clean openings. Their best opportunity to get back on levels terms came with fifteen minutes remaining. A cross was delivered and a rare Hartley spill allowed a half-chance which was fortunately bicycle kicked off target. Colls were content to play on the break with their imperious defenders standing firm for a standout victory.
The management and players shared a joyous celebratory huddle before they acknowledged the applause of their 60/70 strong supporters. This was a third league appearance of the campaign in the County of Staffordshire. The three strikes plundered in these games have garned the maximum nine points. Attack! Attack! Attack! has been the mantra so far with forty one goals on the board but the plaudits have to be handed to the defensive unit also.
To wrap up with over just over a third of the campaign completed Colls went to the top of their Evo-Stik Division for the first time ever. Nobody at the football club are under any illusions that all the hard work has been done. To use the cliche 'It's a marathon rather than a sprint". However for one week at least let these top players and management bask in the knowledge that they have put a 'little club with a big heart' top of the pile. Next Saturday the hard work continues with a home clash with Droylsden. Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Dave Sherlock, Josh Messer, Danny Lambert, Danny Lafferty (C), Matty Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Tom Bentham (Adam Farrell 70'), Jordan Cover (Glenn Matthews 81')
MOM - Dave Sherlock. Quality shift in defence and attack for the last entry to the 'Ton Up' Club Attendance: 336
Photograph: Ian Monk