Match report by Aaron Flanagan (@aaronflan)
There are a few different ways that you can win a game of football.
For example, A) you can pass a team to death, or B) you can just be dominant from set pieces. But on Friday night in Atherton, in a game played in Baltic conditions, Colls went for option C… damn right winning ugly.
And winning ugly is an art form in itself. Grinding out victories when you are not at your best shows the true credentials of any football team. If you can be clinical at one end and manage to throw any part of your bodies in front of the goal down the other, you’re well on your way to winning any game of football.
Colls, playing half an hour with 10 men and defending a slender one-goal lead, did just that. Ultimately, they never looked like throwing away that goal lead despite being under the cosh from a resilient and battling Barnton side.
Going into the match Michael Clegg had a depleted side following the injuries of three defenders in James Brooks, Matt Grimshaw and Gaz Carson who were all on the sidelines. Midfielder Kris Holt was also missing from the squad. This meant that Josh Messer was moved into defence with Matty Boland returning from injury in his place. Gareth Peet made his return to Alder House following a spell at Nelson while Mark Truffas was moved over to the right hand side.
A little bit of early dominance was all it took to open the game’s scoring. Despite missing a couple of early chances, Colls’ resilience paid off. The ever-impressive Mark Battersby controlled the ball low after former-Atherton defender Chris Lawton missed his header, before firing past a helpless keeper in the roof of the net.
It seemed like just-rewards for their bright start to the game, but Barnton were immediately presented the chance to get back into the game.
Goalkeeper Danny Taberner failed to collect a ball into the box, despite getting a firm two hands on the ball, allowing one of the NWCFL’s most prolific marksmen in James McShane to prod home into an empty net.
Such is the way with Colls this season that it was not long before they forged themselves another opportunity to get back into the game. Battersby again was on the end of a cross with his head, with Barnton ‘keeper Danny Lever doing well to keep it out.
But it was some flat-footed defender that allowed Battersby in to give Colls the lead again just a minute later. Josh Messer’s cross from the edge of the box was floated right into the six-yard box, and as nobody tracked the in-form striker, he was able to deftly guide the ball with his head into the net.
Barnton weren’t prepared to go down without a fight, however. Before the break, the ever-impressive Ryan Jackson twisted and jerked round the Colls defence, before scuffing his shot wide of the post.
It was a sign of things to come, as Barnton were going to be the dominant in the second half, as Colls were given a true test of their character.
Just 10 minutes into that second half, they brought on Shaun Tuck, one of non-league’s better-known performers. Hauled off was Nathan Monson. “Monson sucks ass” said a ‘banterous’ banner at the side of the pitch, but either way, the substitution changed the game and Tuck proved to be Barnton’s livewire.
If Colls’ task of dealing with his wasn’t hard enough, it was made harder when Mark Truffas was give his marching orders for a late and reckless tackle on the halfway line. No complaints from anybody, but the there was now the lingering thought that promotion-chasing Barnton could get something from the game.
But those chances never materialised for Barnton. Tabener was never really forced into any meaningful saves and Colls dug in deep to secure yet another vital three points.
So, following on from a month where Colls won 5-0, 5-0 and 5-1, they started the next with a less-than-vintage 2-1 win. But at the end of the season, that scrappy victory on the night where you couldn’t feel your toes will be the one you remember most. Those are the nights which could, just possibly, win you a league.
Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Jake Kenny, Rob Swanton, Nathan Battersby, Mark Ayres, Josh Messer, Brad Cooke, Mark Truffas, Mark Battersby, Gareth Peet - Substitutes: Mark Adams, Jordan Cover, Andy Heald, Tom Shaw
Barnton: Danny Lever, Jesse Robinson, Jordan Stafford, Kevin Durcan, Chris Lawton, Stephen Rothwell, James McShane, Jason McShane, Nathan Monson, Colin Quirk, Ryan Jackson - Substitutes: Shaun Tuck, Anthony Wynne, Ben Alston, Josh Reed, Charles Jones