Three-hundred-and-one days since their last league outing at the Skuna Stadium, Atherton Collieries fell to a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of an impressive Nantwich Town side. Played out under the floodlights in the drizzly midweek weather, it was the Dabbers who took all three points courtesy of a Sean Cooke brace, with Colls down to ten in the second half. Penalty shouts were the theme of the opening forty-five, Ben Conway crashing to the deck in the 7th minute under contact from Nantwich's Troy Bourne in the box, but told to get to his feet by the ref.
The Colls winger was embroiled in controversy again at the other end of the pitch, the ball judged to have struck his arm in the wall from a Nantwich free-kick and a spot-kick promptly awarded.
Dabbers striker Sean Cooke stepped up and dispatched the penalty confidently into the bottom left-corner, giving the visitors the lead after 25 minutes.
Another passionate penalty appeal from Nantwich was turned down on the half-hour mark before Jack Lenehan went closest for the Colls, with a bouncing shot parried away by Cameron Terry.
The second half began at a good pace with Luke Hutchinson acrobatically tipping a Caspar Hughes effort onto the bar and Marcus Cusani firing over from a good position.
However things took a turn for the worst with an hour gone, Ben Conway was shown a straight red for kicking out after a robust challenge from Nantwich's Prince Haywood.
A couple of minutes later the game was put out of reach, Sean Cooke scoring an unstoppable free-kick which cannoned in off the bar, giving the Dabbers a comfortable two-goal lead on 62 minutes.
Despite Colls digging in for the final 25 minutes, the man-advantage and the quality of the visitors was too much for the black-and-whites to mount any sort of a comeback.
Luke Hutchinson was heroic in the Colls goal, denying Cooke his hat-trick from close range in the 70th minute before making another sprawling stop in the dying seconds to keep the scoreline respectable.
In the end it was a tough defeat for Brad Cooke's men but an occasion where we can hold up our hands and admit we were well-beaten by the better side on the evening.
The Colls will look to get back to winning ways on Saturday as Basford United make the trip to the Skuna Stadium for another Northern Premier League clash. Come on down and support the boys! Atherton Collieries: Luke Hutchinson, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet (C), Lewis Doyle (Kershaw 55'), Luca Defreitas-Hansen, Joel Amado, Ben Conway, Scott Sephton, Dylan Glass (Cusani 55'), Jack Lenehan, Elliot Rokka (Martin 74') Unused: Niall Battersby Man of the Match (Sponsored by Bolton Arena): Luke Hutchinson Report: Danny Brown Photo: Dave Featherstone