Atherton Collieries progressed to the quarter final of the Lancashire Challenge Trophy after a thrilling second-half comeback against Clitheroe. It was a classic ‘game of two halves’ with Colls going into the break 2-1 down despite taking the lead through Matty Gillam from the penalty spot. Brad Cooke’s men rallied in the second half however, and goals from Scott Sephton and Aaron Smith were enough to earn them the win at Shawbridge.
In the early stages of the tie it was the home side who created the better chances, belying their status as the lower division team. Some lively play from the NPL Division One West side saw them fire a chance narrowly over the bar, before having a headed effort stopped on the line by Colls’ Niall Battersby.
A heavy challenge left Colls’ Rowan Roache bloodied on the deck, the resulting free-kick ending in a penalty for the visitors after Elliot Rokka’s cross was adjudged to have struck a hand by the linesman on the near side. Matty Gillam stepped up for the visitors and dispatched the spot kick to the goalkeeper’s right, giving his side an early lead.
Clitheroe weren’t to be deterred however and fought back throughout the half, Terry Cummings beating a couple of defenders on the edge of the box and firing in a low effort which, parried away by Luke Hutchinson into the path of Jake Connely, who gleefully restored parity for the hosts.
A whipped-in free kick for Colls saw captain Danny Lafferty blaze over before the home side, buoyed by their equaliser, broke down the other end and took the lead. Terry Cummings again proved a handful for the Colls defence, weaving his way down the left-hand side and setting up Ben McKenna who finished well at the near post.
Brad Cooke made a double swap at the break, introducing Marcus Cusani and Ethan Kershaw, injecting a much-needed dose of energy into his side. The change paid off almost instantly, Matty Gillam breaking through one-on-one shorty after the restart, only to be denied by a good save from Chris Thompson in the Clitheroe goal.
The resulting corner was met by the head of Luca Defreitas-Hansen, his effort rattling against the crossbar and falling to Scott Sephton who poked home the rebound. With Colls looking a different side after the break, the third goal came from Marcus Cusani racing to the byline and cutting back to Aaron Smith, whose side-footed effort found the far corner.
Colls should have added a third or a fourth, Smith and Cusani combining to devastating effect but seeing their efforts blocked by defence and goalkeeper. As the clock ticked down Clitheroe pushed forwards but Hutchinson was on-hand with a superb save in the dying embers to ensure the win. The final whistle brought a much-needed win for the black and whites. Post-Match Interview: youtu.be/yimhYj6YkSAAtherton Collieries: Hutchinson, Battersby, Peet, Lambert, Lafferty, Defreitas-Hansen, Roache (Kershaw 45’), Sephton, Gillam (Lenehan 89’), A.Smith, Rokka (Cusani 45’) Unused subs: Amado Bolton Arena Man of the Match: Scott Sephton (Sponsored by X Digital Media) Report: Danny Brown Photo: Dave Featherstone