Report: Barnoldswick 1-2 Colls

An instant response was needed on a Tuesday night in Barnoldswick following the 1-0 defeat against Runcorn Linnets on Saturday. However, this was no easy task, for the East Lancashire based side found themselves third in the form table following a sparkling run that had seen them go eight games unbeaten, quite understandably however their minds would be elsewhere, a semi-final against promotion chasing Bootle in the League Cup in two days time. For this game, Clegg had made a few changes. Matt Grimshaw coming in for the injured Danny Lafferty, Mason and Gorman dropped to the bench replaced by Jordan Cover and Mark Truffas respectively. An effervescent first half display laid the foundations for a vital three points and a first ever win in Barlick. In the opening periods of the game, the Colls looked like they were back in business, in fact some labelled it as the best Atherton half this season. They bossed possession, passing it about with ease and confidence. On eleven minutes they registered their first opportunity of the game, Jordan Cover at the centre of the action. The goal hungry forward picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area, but after he took a touch or two he sent a sighter high and wide. Barnoldswick, despite mixing up their team with the glut of forthcoming fixtures, posed a threat on the break. A ball across to John Beckwith on the right hand side of the Collieries box looked too wide to present any danger. However, a fine shot-come-volley forced Adam Reid into a routine save. Minutes later, the home side came close again, this time with a header just over the bar from an inswinging corner. Just as Barlick grew into the game, the Colls took the lead, Ben Hardcastle with the goal on 16 minutes. Cover received a ball on the left wing and squared it instantly to the onrushing Hardcastle. The tricky winger, who caused havoc from start to finish, carried into the area before he poked an effort at goal. The initial, rather tame, shot was saved but he rocketed home the rebound to send the Atherton following wild. Five minutes later and, as the black and whites controlled the game, a Jake Kenny cross caused the hosts problems. He evaded the Barlick left back with real skill and his quick thinking allowed him to send a deep cross into the box. The Blues’ defence was quick to this however as they headed away instantly, straight to the feet of Hardcastle who collected, twisted, turned, and released an effort at goal. A home team boot was in the right place to clear the danger. The ball was knocked around with real pace and purpose, the Colls looked as if they were back to normal, playing some real beautiful football. With minutes to go until the interval, it would have been justified to feel they deserved a higher advantage, and if Cover had not fired over from close range, they would have done so. The second half continued as the first had ended, Atherton remained on top. Eight minutes after the re-start their lead was doubled. Vinny Bailey, inside left of the Barlick area, curled a shot around the home side’s defence and goalkeeper for it to bounce against the post and into the back of the net. A pinpoint finish from the midfielder. Ten minutes later, Cover had the chance to make it three, this time he fired wide from yet another raking long pass. Unfortunately, it was at this stage of the game that the Colls’ fortunes had changed as Barnoldswick began to put pressure on Clegg’s men. This was despite, on 65 minutes, Hardcastle inspiring another Atherton breakaway. The winger pelted down the right wing before he squared to substitute Johnny Gorman who was forced wide and his effort was easily collected by the Barlick shot stopper. The hosts pulled a goal back minutes later to set up an edgy finish. A strong header on the edge of the box sprayed the ball out wide and from the ensuing centre Mark Threlfall netted from point blank range. Did the ball go in off his hand? Maybe so, but the ref was unsighted and didn't comprehend what all the fuss was about. George West had a chance to reassert the two goal advantage but he shot straight at Cross. Then from a corner a home player positioned at the far post somehow prodded wide with the goal gaping and the home fans already celebrating. A reprieve. Thankfully from then the Colls rear-guard defended their narrow lead well to ensure an instant return to winning ways. A fine effort from the boys especially in the first half. Report by Zach Pierce and Emil Anderson

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