A goal in each half saw The Collieries beaten by a motivated Radcliffe team in a Evostik Division 1 West match up. Ian Rowlands returned to the starting line up for his first appearance since September after finally shrugging off a niggling injury and James Kirby made his first start since re-signing for the club.
The hosts went into the game buoyed by a fine recent run of form and should have taken the lead after just six minutes. Lewis Lacey was afforded a ridiculous amount of space at a set piece but he nodded wide. Minutes later Callum Grogan headed home a corner from a similar distance as the Colls defence hadn't learned from the earlier let off. Jordan Cover acrobatically overhead kicked a close range effort over the bar after Ben Hardcastle's initial effort was blocked. Elliot Rokka forced Greg Hartley into a smart save before Kirby's glancing header trickled wide of the Boro far post.
The second half started evenly with both teams again carving out half chances. On sixty five minutes Radcliffe grabbed their all important second goal. Cover was given offside deep in opposition territory much to his bemusement and a heated reaction from the Colls contingent located near to the raised flag. From the free kick Tunde Owalabi punished fully a momentary lapse of concentration in the Colls defence when he fired past Hartley. Michael Clegg's team tried their hardest to find a way out of their perilous predicament. Tom Bentham's lopped shot was well tipped over by the Boro shotstopper and Danny Lafferty's well struck long range sortie veered narrowly off target at the latest moment with members of the Colls faithful already celebrating a lifeline. It was not to be!
The home side rightly celebrated with their fans at the end of this competitive 'derby' game. A second consecutive shutout and defeat for the Collieries who surrendered top spot on the league ladder. In the cold light of day the 2-0 reversal may have been a little harsh but full credit to the victors who took their clear cut opportunities clinically. Only Radcliffe and Runcorn Linnets triumphed out of the top six. It's both tough and tight at the top! Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Dave Sherlock, Gareth Peet, Ian Rowlands, Danny Lafferty (C), Matt Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey, Jordan Cover (Tom Bentham 69'), James Kirby (Luke Giverin 69'), Danny Lambert (Josh Peet 76'). Substitutes (not used): Glenn Matthews, Dale Latham
MOM Dave Sherlock Attendance: 253
Photo: David Featherstone