Report: Atherton Collieries 4-3 Maine Road

It was back to NWCFL Premier Division duty on Monday night when the Collieries welcomed Maine Road to Alder House for what was expected to be a close encounter between the two sides. Both sides were in FA Cup action the Saturday beforehand. The Colls travelled to Bootle and ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Kris Holt and Ben Hardcastle whereas, Maine Road had a home tie against St Helens, winning 2-1. Clegg and his management team had the opportunity to welcome Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby and Josh Messer back into the side due to the fact their suspensions had now been served. Matt Boland was also available for selection following his injury. However, Ahmed Sully was unavailable due to a pulled hamstring. The game started brightly for Atherton who passed the ball around with confidence. However, on eight minutes, it was Maine Road that presented themselves with the first opportunity of the game. In an attempt to play the ball back to his fellow defenders, Keith Wedge passed the ball into the path of Road’s Michael Burke. He collected the now loose ball and advanced towards goal before he twisted and turned around Matt Grimshaw and crossed the ball. Fortunately it was cleared well away from danger by Jake Kenny. The Collieries continued to press and on 16 minutes they found themselves with a penalty after a handball on the line by Maine Road’s Zach Catward. Mark Battersby, back in the side for this fixture, stepped up to take the responsibility and duly dispatched as he fired the ball into the bottom right hand corner past Goalkeeper Ryan Livesey. Despite the early setback Road continued to press, five minutes after going behind they had a fine chance to level the game. Callum Jones crossed the ball into the box with only one target to aim for, Burke. Under pressure from both Grimshaw and Mark Ayres, Burke could only tap wide. This was a wakeup call for the Colls; they realised more had to be done to protect their lead and win the game. On 22 minutes, Atherton doubled their advantage. Mark Truffas had the ball played to him on the half way line. The winger dinked the ball past Jones and advanced down his left wing and into the box. Livesey dashed out of his goal as the last line of defence, but with apparent ease Truffas carried the ball around him and rolled it into the net from a tight angle. It was the turn of fellow winger Gareth Peet to warm Livesey’s gloves five minutes later. Peet collected the ball on the right wing and advanced towards goal. At pace he cut inside and ran along the edge of the area before he fired his shot at goal. Livesey did well to get down and parry the shot away. The strong crowd could tell the Collieries had upped the tempo. On the half hour mark Maine Road had to be alert to Mark Battersby’s attacking prowess. The lively striker was denied twice after the ball was played across to him in the box. First Livesey did well to deny a goal and then the Road defence managed to get in front of his second shot. Two minutes later and the Colls had another fine effort on goal. Taberner collected the ball from a corner kick and sent it up towards Truffas on halfway, once again he dinked it and turned past Jones before he switching the ball across to Peet on the far side. Peet brought the ball down and passed across to Holt on the edge of the area. Cooke advanced into the area and collected the ball before seeing his shot kept out by Livesey. It felt as though the Collieries that we all grew to love last season were back. Fast attacking play, great use of possession and a relentless amount of pressure asserted on to opponents; it was a joy to watch. On 33 minutes, the Collieries found themselves three goals to the good. The ball was played to Mark Battersby who carried it down the left wing. A shout from strike partner James Kirby signalled that he was free in the middle of the area. Battersby sent the ball over to Kirby who duly tapped the ball into the goal. Fantastic link up play between the two strikers. With eight minutes to go until half time, Maine Road pulled a goal back. The ball was lost in the Colls’ midfield by Brad Cooke and was picked up by Harry Brockarie who impressed throughout the game. He passed the ball across to Burke, free in Atherton’s area where he had the rather simplistic job of tapping the ball past Danny Taberner. Half Time – Atherton Collieries 3-1 Maine Road Maine Road started the second period of the game in the same manner they finished the first, with high intensity in an attempt to find any way back into the match. As the half progressed, Colls appeared to become lethargic and complacent defending their two goal lead.  Three minutes into the second half an opportunity to pull a further goal back was presented to Road. On the edge of the area, Burke received the ball and passed it onto Brockarie who overlapped past him. Brockarie fired his shot straight at Taberner. On 59 minutes, further applaudable link up play was witnessed between Mark Battersby and James Kirby. The latter won the ball on the right wing and passed it across to Battersby who fired well over the bar. Atherton kept up the pressure and on 64 minutes had a good opportunity to take their score up to four. Kris Holt twisted and turned his way into the Maine Road danger area before he fired just over the bar. Seconds later, the Collieries were indeed four goals to the good. The ball was played to Mark Battersby outside the box. He cut inside one defender, paused for a second and curled the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal. Battersby was back! Now 4-1 up, many would have expected Collieries to go on and add to their tally, or at a minimum defend their well earned lead. However, Maine Road's young and tenacious side fought back and made it uncomfortable viewing for the home crowd. Unlike last season in the First Division, teams don’t roll over and concede in the NWCFL Premier Division. Maine Road competed till the very last second. On 79 minutes, the visitors pulled another goal back. It was Matthew Morgan who curled the ball past the advanced Taberner to give Road a lifeline in the game. Collieries did carry on attacking and could have made it 5-2 when Mark Battersby set up Brad Cooke. With time and space, Cooke snatched at his effort obviously under the impression that he had less time than he did. With seconds left on the clock, Maine Road’s Morgan got his second goal of the game, and what a goal it was. The ball was played to the winger who travelled down the far left wing. In an attempt to make something out of the attack Morgan sent in a cross-come-shot that flew over Taberner and into the back of the net. One Collieries fan behind the far goal described Morgan as the "North West Counties answer to Marco Van Basten." Full Time – Atherton Collieries 4-3 Maine Road Three points is three points, no matter what form of life it comes in. Clegg and his management team may be disappointed with the last 10 minutes of the game but will take more positives than negatives from the 90 minutes as a whole. The next game for Atherton is on Saturday, 1874 Northwich are welcomed to Alder House in what promises to be a competitive and well contested match. Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Keith Wedge, Jake Kenny, Kris Holt, Matt Grimshaw, Mark Ayres, Gareth Peet, Brad Cooke (C), Mark Battersby, James Kirby and Mark Truffas – Substitutes: Jordan Cover, Matt Boland, Nathan Battersby, Ben Hardcastle and Josh Messer. Maine Road: Ryan Livesy, Callum Jones, Zach Catward, Jonathan Mason ©, James Flynn, Calum Broady, Jordan Rutter, Harry Brockarie, Josh Harper, Michael Burke and Jamie Roe – Substitutes: Matthew Morgan, Adam Savill, Sam Barnett, Rio Wilson-Lewes and Dominic Chatfield. Man of the match - Mark Battersby Attendance: 189 Match report by Zach Pierce

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