Report: 1874 1-2 Colls

The Hallmark Security League table is starting to take shape, finally. Both at the top and bottom we are seeing teams fall away, 1874 Northwich being one of the sides whose title ambitions are no more. Despite this, when looking at the ‘final run-in’, an away trip to the Greens was always going to be difficult as the teams are generally evenly matched. Manager Michael Clegg had made a few changes to the side that saw off Winsford United on Monday, forward Mark Battersby, captain Brad Cooke and defender Danny Lafferty coming back into the side following recoveries from their respective injuries. Straight from the off there was an air of nervousness. The pitch at the Barnton Stadium, whilst being improved over the summer, still allows the ball to bobble left, right and centre. A pass intended for one player could easily end up finding the feet of another. As a result, a drab opening unfolded. A stray Battersby volley on four minutes the only highlight. Thankfully, the game sparked to life ten minutes later. A sweeping Josh Messer pass across the field of play made its way to Battersby. The danger man collected, attacked but fired just wide of the mark. A sense of apprehension engulfed the 1874 rear-guard whenever Battersby had the ball. It was the hosts, however, who opened the afternoon’s scoring. Scott McGowan fired into the back of the net after a corner was headed down to him. Arguably, the goal came against the run of play as it was sandwiched in-between two Colls attacks. An instant response was needed and almost provided on 34 minutes. Gaz Peet’s long throws have become a staple part of Atherton’s attacking philosophy of late. It caused havoc on Saturday, winger Mark Truffas volleyed a shot well over after having one headed down to him. Minutes later, 1874 pressed again as they came as close as possible to doubling their advantage. Samuel Hare could only watch as his shot bounced back off the post from a Greens break. The lively pitch was making play on the deck hazardous and the Collieries were forced into a long-ball system of attack. A thump up to Ben Hardcastle on the half hour mark very nearly provided the Colls with answers to their questions. The winger squared to Battersby on the edge of the area, but the normally unerring goal marksman could only release a tame effort on goal. Just before half time a Josh Messer shot was remarkably saved by Greens keeper Greg Hall. However a lifeline came in added time when Truffas was pushed just inside the area. The ref, without hesitation, blew and pointed to the spot. Battersby stuck his hand up and took the responsibility, sending Hall the wrong way and the two teams were level at the break. This goal saw him join Jordan Cover at the top of the goal scoring hit parade with 24 apiece. The second half opened in a similar manner to the first, both sides were ponderous in attack, keen not to concede. An inspired substitute in the form of Darhyl Mason gave the half a bit of life, instantly he caused problems for Matthew Russell in the left back position. He whipped a ball across goal but the Greens defence got there first to repel the danger. This was Atheton’s best spell of the game as minutes later Truffas received the ball on the left wing and pelted his way into the area. The experienced winger fired a low and hard shot at goal, unfortunately straight into the palms of Hall. Adam Reid was called into action on 66 minutes. 1874 capitalised on a mix up at the back. Sam Hind collected a loose ball and moved towards the left wing and squared across to Hare. The midfielder released a shot on goal, but the inspired Reid was equal to it. It really was end-to-end action, on one end of the field Battersby poked towards goal from a free kick and at the other end chaos unfolded from an attack, Peet was forced to thump the ball off the line and onto the terraces. After one more Truffas effort was saved by Hall, breakthrough. On 82 minutes, for the third game on the spin, Clegg's team came from behind to lead. The ball was played to Hardcastle on the edge of the box and a friendly bobble allowed him to smash a volley into the roof of the net before Hall had time to move. A fine goal that sent the Collieries collective wild. A finish, in fact, that would not look out of place in the upper echelons of the game. A few nervy moments came and went, with seconds remaining Reid made an majestic save from a Thomas Bailey header. Certainly a season-defining block for the young shot stopper. This was after Hall, given the nod to leave his station between the sticks, had narrowly failed to get his touch from a corner on target. And that was that. A performance of true grit gave Clegg's men a fourth consecutive 2-1 triumph. The next outing is on Easter Monday, an 11:00AM encounter with AFC Darwen down at the Kensite Stadium. Of course, it is Groundhop weekend so we are opening our arms in friendship. All welcome! Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gaz Peet, Josh Messer, Danny Lafferty, Jamie Forbes, Ben Hardcastle, Bradley Cooke, Mark Battersby, Vincent Bailey and Mark Truffas – Substitutes: Darrhyl Mason, James Brookes (unused), Jordan Cover, George West and Matthew Grimshaw (unused). Match Report: Zach Pierce and Emil Anderson

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