Report: Colls 1-1 Squires Gate

Atherton Collieries played their first home league game of the 2016/17 season in front of a strong crowd at The Kensite Stadium on Monday night. Despite having by far the more opportunities and dominating for periods, the match ended in a draw after Squires Gate grabbed a stoppage time equaliser. It's a reminder that if you don't take your chances you will ultimately be punished by sides who don't stop working. Squires Gate came into the match having knocked Maltby Main out of the FA Cup and beating league title hopefuls 1874 Northwich 4-1. Despite this it was Collieries who played better in the first half and should have gone into the break more than one goal to the good.  Mark Battersby returned to the side following his absence on Saturday at Nelson which was a bonus. Holidays, work commitments, suspensions, injuries and registration problems left the squad threadbare so it was uplifting to have a striker back who was just two goals away from 100 for the club. After just two minutes Collieries should have been ahead when Squires Gate goalkeeper Ben Fletcher tried to dink the ball over Mark Battersby's head when we was under pressure. The Colls striker then outmuscled the Gate custodian, turned him and shot towards an empty net. Somehow the effort hit the left hand post and bounced back into play. It was a real let off for the visitors.  A minute later and Colls had another effort on goal when a short Ben Hardcastle corner was passed to Gareth Peet. The winger cut inside the area and unleashed a strong shot that flew wide of the left hand post towards the plethora of memorial benches that could soon form a stand in their own right.  On 16 minutes Atherton goalkeeper Adam Reid was called into action when Brett Dawson tried his luck. The attacker struck a dipping half volley from the corner of the area and it was tipped around the post by the goalkeeper. The corner was dealt with and Collieries were beginning to settle following a frenetic opening period. Just before the half hour mark Gareth Peet crossed the ball in from the left hand side to Battersby. The striker turned his marker and placed the ball marginally past the right hand post from just inside the area. It was a fast flowing move and more was to follow just moments later when once again Peet gained possession. This time he took the ball around the defender and sent in a very deep cross, picking out an advancing Hardcastle. With his side foot he volleyed the ball delicately towards goal but his effort ended up in the side netting. Collieries two full backs were keen to get involved in play and Jake Kenny tried his luck from distance to no avail before the away side themselves began to settle. They knocked the ball around well and lucked very dangerous on the break with their pacy forwards. A sustained period of possession came with around ten minutes of the half remaining but then the deadlock was broken. A loose Paul Carroll backpass to Ben Fletcher was always asking for trouble with Mark Battersby lurking. The striker nipped inbetween the two of them and lobbed the ball high over the head of the goalkeeper, bouncing only on the line as it made its way into the back of the net. He was off the mark and now just one goal away from joining the 100 club. Half time arrived and the visitors made a couple of changes. Joe Noblet - who scored a long range effort in this fixture last season - came on for Jamie Gibson, while Alex McKendrick replaced Anthony Stayte. Collieries remained the same and were now attacking down the slope as the sun set over the imposing figure of the abandoned Formby Hall. Five minutes into the half Noblet tried to find the equaliser for Gate with a strong shot that was headed clear. Mark Thornber had a second crack with the follow up but he dragged his effort wide. On 60 minutes, great interchange between Jake Kenny and Kris Holt allowed play to progress quickly up the field. Hardcastle set off down the right hand side and latched on to the through ball. Carrying on into the area he cut inside the full back and once again rifled the ball into the side netting.  Moments later and Hardcastle came even closer to being rewarded for his hard work. Squires Gate were once again guilty of over complicating things at the back and Hardcastle dispossessed Jake Higham on the edge of the area. Having won the ball, the winger took one touch to set himself before curling the ball towards to the top left hand corner. Fletcher got across well and pulled off a fantastic save to send the ball out for a corner. Squires Gate were now beginning to pile the pressure on Colls but the defensive partnership of Danny Lafferty and Mark Ayres won everything in the air. This forced the visitors to play with his intensity down the wings, helped with the introduction of Ryan Tanser. On 78 minutes, Higham sent in a well directed cross to the head of Tanser but he couldn't quite apply a touch goalwards. The game was becoming stretched and you sensed there would be another goal. With the last attack of the game the visitors got the equaliser that they had threaten to get for the closing ten minutes. Brett Dawson beat the offside trap and raced through on goal to Adam Reid. The low finish almost occurred in slow motion as Reid got a touch to the effort, taking all pace off it but more crucially on to the inside of the right hand post. It then trickled across the face of the goal and over the line.  That was the end of the match. A last minute equaliser denying Colls in a match where they had created more than enough chances to take all three points. Squires Gate never gave up and they got their reward in the end and go top of the league after two matches played. Collieries are now on four points and edge closer to mathematical safety. Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Mike Lea, Josh Messer, Danny Lafferty, Mark Ayres, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, Kristian Holt (85' Pickering), Gareth Peet - Substitutes: Matt Grimshaw, James Brooks, Jordan Cover, Justin Pickering Squires Gate: Ben Fletcher, Andy Richards, Jake Higham, Mike Hall, Danny Penswick, Paul Carroll, Anthony Stayte, Mark Thornber, Ryan Riley, Brett Dawson, Jamie Gibson - Substitutes: Alex McKendrick, Joe Noblet, Ryan Tanser, Ric Seear, Ben Seear Attendance: 182 Match report by Joseph Gibbons Photo by Ian Monk

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