Report: Ashton Town 2-2 Colls

League champions Atherton Collieries played their fifth game in six days. There was a palpable sense of disappointment in the Wigan air as the team and fans alike realised that they wouldn’t be spending the day with each other tomorrow. In fact, everybody had a full 24 hours without having to play or witness another match; however would we all cope? It had been less than 14 hours since we had all left Darwen when we reconvened at Alder House ahead of yet another match. Hurting from the previous nights result another depleted side travelled to Ashton to take on another side who were struggling for personnel at this late and congested stage of the campaign. Unfortunately the Ashton Town assistant manager Billy Bristow wasn’t available for selection following his 40 second cameo at Holker in midweek, although reports suggest he was dropped by the no nonsense John Brownrigg. The league’s top goal scorer Mark Battersby returned to the squad having missed the matches against Eagley and Darwen. He joined Wes Bancroft, Tom Shaw and Gareth Peet in attacking positions who themselves hadn’t featured in the previous nights defeat. Collieries’ man of the match Jack Iley – of the U18’s - impressed in midfield alongside Kristian Holt who finished the match looking like he’d had collagen implants in his lips following an elbow to the face. The back four consisted of Andy Heald, Luke Gibson, Matt Grimshaw and Nathan Battersby. Gareth Carson had worked his socks off this week so was rested, allowing the centre half to sunbathe from behind the goal. The ever growing travelling army of fans was a few members light due to Leigh Centurions tie at home to Salford Red Devils in the Challenge Cup but a strong presence still remained. Those who did make it to Edge Green Street could have been forgiven for getting confused as it was the first time that Colls had played at the venue in daylight since 2009 when Dave Conlon’s side drew 5-5. It was the first appearance of the season for Colls’ Norwich inspired green away kit and it will probably be the last, if not for this campaign but forever. The reliable kit has served us well but it will be stored in the cellar until the end of the season when its fate will be decided. Michael Clegg’s side played very well in the first 15 minutes and could have been out of sight had the Ashton defence not been in inspired form. The deadlock was broken by Colls on eight minutes when Mark Battersby volleyed a cross to the back post. He picked out his fellow striker Wes Bancroft who powered his header into the top left hand corner past Ashton goalkeeper Michael Lowe. Lowe was picking the ball out of his goal again four minutes later when centre half Luke Gibson was first to meet a Tom Shaw corner. While Bancroft’s header was powerful, Gibson’s was even better and it flew into the right hand corner. The home side could have sat back and gone for damage limitation after Colls relentless start, but they didn’t and they were rewarded with a goal on 23 minutes. Marcus Cusani linked well with Connor Tagoe in the middle of midfield. Cusani carried the ball to the edge of the box where he hit the ball low and hard into the bottom right hand corner past Danny Taberner. Kristian Holt was linking well with Mark Battersby and Wes Bancroft and the trio looked threatening each time they moved forward. On the half hour mark Michael Lowe had to rush off his line to deny Holt a goal when he was threaded through by a smart flick from Battersby. Half time arrived and Keith Wedge replaced Nathan Battersby at right back. It became a typical end of season affair with both sides allowing each other far too much time and space on the ball. The game ultimately became stretched and only a mixture of poor finishing and last ditch defending kept the visitors tally at two. In a half that was reminiscent of Colls’ victory at Abbey Hey in November, no matter how hard Michael Clegg’s side tried to score it just would not creep over the line. If you don’t take your chances you will be punished and that is exactly what Ashton did. On 80 minutes they capitalised on a rare and uncharacteristic mistake from goalkeeper Danny Taberner. A clearance fell to Marcus Cusani on the edge of the box and with no defenders around it was left to the striker to squeeze the ball in at the near post. The final ten minutes saw the hosts pinned in their penalty area with Colls looking for the winning goal. Substitute Jordan Cover surged through the Ashton backline but his chipped effort was saved by Lowe and the resulting corner was cleared off the line. Three more close range shots were scrambled away and Ashton and Colls shared the points. Admittedly it felt like a loss but that is purely because we now have such high expectations of the team. We’ll look back in days to come and be happy at having only dropped four points given everything that has been thrown at us. Our next match is on Monday where we face Daisy Hill. Please check the weather forecast before you travel. Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Nathan Battersby (Keith Wedge), Andy Heald, Luke Gibson, Matt Grimshaw, Jack Iley (Jordan Cover), Kristian Holt, Mark Battersby, Westley Bancroft, Tom Shaw (Ben Hardcastle), Gareth Peet - Substitutes: Ben Hardcastle, Jordan Cover, Matty Boland, Keith Wedge, Gareth Roberts Attendance: 75 Match report by Joseph Gibbons

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