Atherton Collieries continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-2 draw in a behind closed doors friendly against Runcorn Linnets at the Skuna Stadium. Goals from a trialist and Rick Smith were cancelled out by strikes from Iwan Murray and Craig Lindfield for the visitors as the match ended all-square.
Linnets were fast out of the blocks and applied pressure to Colls’ goal throughout the opening ten minutes but failed to test goalkeeper Danny Taberner.
Having rode the early storm, Atherton gained a foothold in the game and began driving at Runcorn, creating chances of their own before making the breakthrough in the 21st minute.
A well-worked move down the left wing was spear-headed by Marcus Cusani. His silky footwork was partnered with a low drive across the box which was fired into the bottom left corner of the net to put Atherton ahead by a trialist. The remainder of the first half was hotly contested as Linnets upped their game once again.
Former Colls man Iwan Murray was played through on goal with a long-ball upfield but the Welshman blazed wide of the net on the half volley. Atherton then looked to double their lead with a shot at goal from Elliot Rokka going just wide.
Livewire Rokka also saw a penalty claim waved away by the referee under the challenge of a Linnets defender. Before the half-time whistle, Runcorn striker Wharton also saw a shot go wide of the goal.
And with that, the first-half action was brought to a halt, Danny Taberner still yet to be tested and Colls 1-0 to the good.
It didn’t take long for Linnets to hit back come the start of the second half. On the 48th minute, Runcorn’s Crilly won the ball high up the pitch and set up teammate Lindfield who fired past Taberner in the Colls goal.
A tentative ten minutes followed the equaliser, with both sides weighing up the opposition having both made subs at the break. One of those substitutes - Jordan Darr - was then clattered into by the Linnets ‘keeper in the box but remarkably denied a penalty.
Imminently after this, Colls did get their goal though. A whipped in corner from the left was met by the head of defender Rick Smith. His towering header nestled in the top corner of the goal and sent Colls into the lead oncemore.
Now holding a 2-1 advantage, Colls were unlucky not to extend their lead. Jordan Darr was played through on goal by Vinny Bailey, and the striker had the keeper beaten but saw his shot go just wide of the right-hand post.
Colls then paid the price of that missed opportunity as Linnets equalised for a second time and scored what would prove to be the last goal of the match.
Craig Lindfield was again involved as he gave the ball to Murray. The midfielder then did the rest as he weaved through the Colls defence and fired past Taberner. Chances at each end did follow, Gareth Peet’s free kick almost being headed home by captain Daniel Lafferty in the last seconds.
However, it wasn’t to be and Brad Cooke’s men had to settle for a draw in their third pre-season friendly. Once again, this game was played behind closed doors and we would like to thank fans for staying at home.
Atherton Collieries: Taberner, C.Smith, R.Smith (Darr) , Lafferty, Trialist (Trialist) Lambert (Bailey), Doyle (Trialist), Peet, Rokka (Trialist), Cusani (Conway), Glass (Sambor > Sigsworth)
Referee: M Crusham