Colls relinquished their grip at the summit of the Hallmark Security League with a defeat by the odd goal in five against a talented Bootle outfit.
The hosts had an early chance when a cross was nodded wide by the diving forward at the far post but with 25 minutes on the clock neither keeper had faced a shot in anger.
Bootle were playing some nice football and when Colls had possession they were being pressed and were unable to get into their stride. The main source of entertainment was the parochial home crowd’s attempt to get Mark Battersby in the book following a couple of infringements.
The game sprang into life on 27 minutes. Bootle zig zagged the ball around the Colls half, Steve Jones found space 20 yards out and his low shot went in off the near post. Adam Reid was given no chance. The lead was doubled just two minutes later when Carl Peers hit a dream strike from 25 yards. The near post gained a second assist of the game mind. Reid had even less of a chance with this effort.
Colls were shell shocked and would have taken the half time whistle there and then.
On 40 minutes Dave Sherlock was the first name in the book for a rather innocuous foul. After doing well to keep his cards in his pockets despite the constant barrage from the home faithful the seal had now been broken.
Just before the half time oranges Colls got back into the game. After a bit of goalmouth ping pong the ball landed at Battersby’s feet and he slipped the ball over the keeper from a tight angle. A defender stopped the ball on the line but Ben Hardcastle was on hand to bundle the ball over the whitewash. A much needed boost for Michael Clegg’s men.
Colls restarted proceedings with a lot more vim and pep and thought they had equalised when Jordan Cover tapped in from a few yards out from a flick on from a set piece. The liner had other ideas though as he raised his flag with panache. Cover picked up a caution for arguing about the decision (I think) and then Battersby’s name was taken for what seemed like a fair challenge much to the natives approval. They had got their man, Bootle had picked up a couple of cautions also. The card count was rising at a punishing pace. Referee Brown’s pen was on fire! It wasn’t a dirty game.
Colls continued to improve, Gareth Peet’s long throw was flicked into the danger area but there was nobody there to apply the finishing touch. Cover then chased a ball into the box and went over following contact from his marker. No penalty but I have seen them given.
With 15 minutes remaining Colls got a deserved equaliser. Hardcastle whipped a centre in which the keeper seemed to punch onto the head of Brad Cooke. Another scrappy goal but nobody cared.
Colls should have added a third, Cover freed Battersby but his effort was easily parried away. Hardcastle completely mis-kicked the rebound although in his defence Cover inadvertently seemed to impede him. In all honesty Colls looked like being the only winners but it didn’t work out that way. Playmaker Vinny Bailey collected the ball just outside his own 18 yard box, seconds later he had been pickpocketed and Bootle had regained the lead.
Colls then threw everything including the kitchen sink to get on terms again with a Fergie-esque eight minutes added time played.
Balls were pumped into the box but Bootle defended resolutely. They missed a few breakaway opportunities themselves. Jamie Forbes was number six in the book and it was definitely the foul of the game. Even I didn’t argue that one. Poor Dave Sherlock’s wasn’t in the same stratosphere.
A pulsating game of Hallmark Security League football. Colls had recovered from an uninspiring first half display to being odds on favourites to win the contest. It was not to be but with nine games of the campaign gone the team are still handily placed to make a push for the Premier Division title. Bootle are a quality team who passed the ball around superbly in the first half. They will be there or there abouts at the season’s end.
Atherton Collieries - Adam Reid, Jamie Forbes, Gareth Peet, Josh Messer, Danny Lafferty, Mark Ayres, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey, Mark Battersby, Jordan Cover, Dave Sherlock - Substitutes - Brad Cooke, Matt Grimshaw, Jake Kenny, Justin Pickering
Attendance - 146
Match report by Emil Anderson