If football is apparently coming home then it made an early appearance on a lovely summer's evening at the Kensite Stadium as a crowd of nearly 700 saw Atherton Collieries draw 1-1 with SkyBet Championship neighbours Bolton Wanderers, only conceding the lead with a matter of minutes to go in their opening pre-season run out. Pre-season is always full of milestones. First game, first goal and such like. The honour of this year’s “first ball to end up in Tyldesley” fell to Danny Lambert after all of 42 seconds of this clash in what the Colls committee will presumably hope isn’t a sign of things to come. Those Evo-Stik League match balls don’t grow on trees, you know.
Said match balls and the famous black and white stripes of the Colls kit may have brought visiting goalkeeper James Aspinall out in hives, facing Colls for the first time since conceding a long-range wonder goal to Vinny Bailey whilst on loan at Glossop North End, with Colls running out 2-1 victors on that breezy February afternoon.
Aspinall was collecting the ball out of his net after only twenty one minutes of this encounter, Ben Hardcastle threading through a lovely ball for Luke Giverin to slide the ball beneath Aspinall on what was an impressive outing for the former Royal Antwerp man, reappearing in a Colls shirt having had two previous spells with the club.
Both sides tried to maintain a certain amount of pace to the game on a pristine Kensite Stadium pitch that was a huge reward to the hard work put in by the Colls ground staff during the seemingly never ending baking hot weather of the summer, and as the two sides tried to play with a certain amount of intensity that wouldn’t normally expect at this stage of pre-season, they even managed something of a coming together just after the half hour mark, with the referee handing out three bookings – two for Colls, one for Bolton – after what can only be assumed to be a heated discussion about the weather and the World Cup.
Greg Hartley had to wait a full thirty six minutes before he got his hands on the ball in the Colls goal, saving comfortably from Leon Arnsalam’s low effort from the edge of the box, four minutes before Adam Farrell came close to doubling the Colls lead, heading over from six yards out when well-positioned.
The half-time break saw Colls change virtually their entire side – along with their strip – as they left the field in black and white stripes and returned in all green, with only Danny Lafferty and Greg Hartley remaining from the first half line up, albeit with both of them to be replaced in the early stages of the second half.
Tom Bentham saw a sixty fourth minute effort superbly pushed away by Aspinall before Bolton thought they’d got an equaliser with nine minutes remaining, only to be denied by the referee’s assistant as Eddie Brown headed the ball home from an offside position after Dan Wright saw his shot cannon off Evans’ left hand post.
Sadly for Colls, Bolton’s equaliser did eventually arrive five minutes later when Dan Wright made amends for his previous attempt hitting the woodwork, slotting the ball in to an empty net from close range after bamboozling Evans with some neat footwork, leaving the scores level at full-time for remarkably the fourth successive year in this fixture, though Burnett did go close late on, denied by a superb save from substitute Bolton goalkeeper Konrad.
Colls are back in home action this coming Friday evening (13th July) when Surrey-based Chipstead of the Bostik South League are the visitors to the Kensite Stadium for a 7pm kick off. Atherton Collieries (first half): Greg Hartley, Dave Sherlock, Gareth Peet, Danny Lafferty, Matt Grimshaw, Josh Messer, Ben Hardcastle, Danny Lambert, Adam Farrell, Luke Giverin, Conor GaulAtherton Collieries (second half): Greg Hartley (Chris Evans), Marcus Cusani, Glenn Matthews, Ian Rowlands, Danny Lafferty (Josh Messer), Liam O’Neill, James Sigsworth, Ben Conway, Jordan Cover, Tom Bentham, Gary BurnettGoal(s): Luke Giverin (21’)Bolton Wanderers: James Aspinall, Harry Brockbank, Will Hartshorne, Shakeel Jones-Griffiths, Joe Muscatt, Dan Wright, Liam Collings, Jacob Gardner-Smith, Boris Jaloszynski, Stephen Duke-McKenna, Leon ArnsalamSubs (All used): Jordan Boon, Eddie Brown, Morgan Bruce-de-Rouche, Callum Preston, Kwame Osigwe, Sonny Graham, KonradGoal(s): Dan Wright (86') Attendance: 682
Match report: Matt Lawton
Photograph: Ian Monk