Cooke's lads went into Saturday's game away at Ashton United with a spring in their step. The current run of win one, lose one saw the Colls pick up three points against FC United the weekend previous. The task now was simple (well, on paper anyway) - pick up two consecutive wins for the first time since September.
Ahead of kick off, the weather was relentless. Drop after drop of rain fell with fury and, for a time, one questioned whether any football would be played at all. Credit to the army of Ashton United volunteers who put in a good team shift to ensure the game went ahead.
Naturally, wet weather meant the surface was sticky. Had the pretty passing advocates of the Premier League (Pep is only down the road, remember) seen it I'm sure they would've been knocked sick. But this was the NORTHERN Premier League and this was Atherton Collieries. To emulate the words of Cooke, we "lick our lips" when we see a surface like this.
Collieries were the better side in the first 20 minutes. They looked cool in possession and attacked the rather unsteady looking United defence numerous times. Their best effort came on 8 minutes. Jay Fitzmartin collected a ball forward, cut inside and curled an effort at goal. It looked another fine finish from the young forward, but it wasn't to be as the ball cannoned against the crossbar and to safety.
The Robins took the lead against the run of play. An enticing set-piece was sailed into the area by Nathan Lowe and Sean Newton expertly maneuvered the ball into the far corner of the net.
Colls didn't sit back; Oli Brown lead an attack three minutes later and forced a fine stop from Ashton's Scott.
A flurry of United attacks came and went and the Colls were relieved to go in at half time with a solitary goal disadvantage. Mackenzie Chapman instrumental to this with some unbelievable stops.
Cooke had hoped that a half time get together would set the Colls straight. Imagine his disappointment then when Ashton doubled their lead just two minutes into the half. Chapman was again equal to the initial effort on goal. The parry, however, fell straight to the head of Jason Gilchrist who headed home with ease.
It wasn't to be Atherton's afternoon, and that happens in football from time to time. This was further evidenced when the home side bagged their third thanks to a rare defensive error from the ever-reliable Colls defensive unit. Luca Defreitas-Hansen, who has been heroic in every game he's played this season, headed the ball back to Chapman. This header, however, was just short of the mark and intercepted by Ashton's Keilen Adams. The forward simply tapped around the panicked Chapman. Head up, Luca! Adam Rooney had a power-blaster expertly repelled by Scott as the Stripes chased a consolation.
Grey skies and heavy rain echoed the disappointment of all in Colls colours. An afternoon in East Manchester that wasn't to be. Cooke's lads go again on Wednesday evening in a Lancashire Cup Semi-final at the County Ground, Leyland. An opportunity to avenge high-flyjng Bamber Bridge following a 2-0 setback just a few weeks ago. The Colls away following was again brilliant up in the Tameside hinterland, let's be seeing you at LFA HQ.
Colls: Mackenzie Chapman, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet ©, Oli Brown, Adam Rooney, Luca Defreitas-Hansen, Ben Hardcastle (Cesaire Lingouba 72’), Arran Pettifer, Adam Haw, Jay Fitzmartin and Marcus Cusani (Bailey Thompson 72’).
Unused subs – Jack Lenehan, Danny Lafferty and Joel Amado.
Man of the Match: (presented by Follow Colls Away): Clive Smith (sponsored by John and Vicki)
Report: Zach Pierce and Emil Anderson
Photo: Dave Featherstone