Atherton Collieries and Stafford Rangers played out a stalemate at the Skuna Stadium, taking a goal apiece in a clash between two sides neck & neck in the Northern Premier League table. It was certainly not a match for the footballing purists, with the game a physical contest throughout and the majority of the action coming through set pieces.
The hosts started brightly, when Jack Lenehan played Ethan Kershaw through to the edge of the six-yard box, seeing a powerful effort saved at Stafford 'keeper Luke Pilling's near post.
The game sparked to life after a quarter of an hour, when the persistent physicality of Boro midfielder Tom Tonks led to a Collieries penalty, finally catching the referee's eye with an aggressive body-check on Declan Daniels. Skipper Danny Lafferty converted with a trademark powerful finish to take the lead, before celebrating with young Danny Lafferty Jnr in the crowd.
Pilling was drawn into action yet again moments later, producing a fine double save to prevent Declan Daniels from doubling the Colls advantage.
Following the goal, Stafford took to the ascendancy, and proved to be a more than formidable threat with a barrage of troubling set-pieces for the remainder of the game. Though the Collieries defence of Lafferty, Defreitas-Hansen and Amado were more than capable of dealing with the long ball threat, Stafford dominated from the second-balls.
With 35 minutes remaining, a free-kick ultimately provided the opportunity for Stafford to take home a more than deserved point. Ben Woods hit the bar with a powerful free-kick, before Ethan Stewart looped a header over Danny Taberner to equalise.
The Colls grew back into the game after conceding, and pressed throughout the final moments to regain the lead. The introduction of forwards Matty Gillam and Elliot Rokka to the field of play particularly forced the Boro onto the back foot, though a sequence of late set pieces for the Colls ultimately proved fruitless.
Stafford Rangers are a side with one of the division's best away records, and were good value for it at the Skuna Stadium, as two of the Northern Premier League's form sides ultimately cancelled each other out. Next Up: Colls vs Ashton United, the Skuna Stadium (1st February, 19:45ko) The Colls: Danny Taberner, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, Joel Amado, Danny Lafferty, Luca Defreitas-Hansen, Ethan Kershaw, Scott Sephton, Declan Daniels, Jack Lenehan (86' Elliot Rokka), Rowan Roache (66' Matty Gillam) Subs (Unused): Niall Battersby Bolton Arena Man of the Match: Declan Daniels Report: Rob Clarke Photo: David Featherstone