Atherton Collieries fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat against Stafford Rangers after a closely-fought encounter at the Skuna Stadium.
In a classic 'game of two halves', two first-half strikes from Stafford's Adam Liverstone and Tom Tonks were enough to secure the win, despite being pegged back by Danny Lafferty's equaliser. Colls went on top for much of the second half and in the end were unfortunate not to take at least a draw from the game.
Brad Cooke named an unchanged line up from his side’s impressive 2-1 turnaround against FC United three days earlier, whereas the visitors came into the game full of confidence on the back of their 4-2 win against Bamber Bridge in their season opener.
Under the floodlights and dark clouds at the Skuna, Stafford started the game the better of the two teams and dominated the early proceedings. The game's first chances saw Stewart twice head over the bar, after a superb tackle from Joel Amado in the box had put the ball behind for a corner.
Stafford's pressure would tell with the breakthrough for the visitors coming on 20 minutes, Adam Livingstone's right-footed delivery from the left flank evading everyone and nestling in the far corner of the net before Nico Defreitas-Hansen had chance to react.
The goal spurred Colls into action, with Danny Lafferty's reply coming just a minute after conceding the goal. Jay Fitzmartin's whipped-in corner found the skipper at the near post, who powered a trademark header past Cameron Belford to level the scores almost immediately.
From there Colls enjoyed a short period on top, Jay Fitzmartin's cross in from the right inches away from the head of Aaron Smith. The resulting corner dropped to Danny Lafferty at the near post who should have added a second, but lifted his strike narrowly over the bar.
The breathless period of action concluded with Stafford re-taking the lead, Adam Livingstone once against causing problems down the left-hand side, his searching cross to the back post was headed back in to Tom Tonks, who's side-footed effort crashed in off the bar.
Following the break, Colls emerged with the bit between their teeth and went agonisingly close to an equaliser through Aaron Smith. The midfielder rode a couple of challenges in the area before getting the ball out of his feet, his effort taking a slight deflection to nick it wide.
The chances continued to come but with no reward, Joel Amado headed over from a corner before Scott Bakkor skewed a first-time effort off target and forced a sprawling save from Cameron Belfort after Aaron Smith had clipped the ball over the Stafford defence.
There was controversy on the hour-mark as a Marcus Cusani's was blocked on the floor by Andrew Burns, the defender appearing to handle as he attempted to get to his feet but the referee was unmoved, despite impassioned appeals from the Colls players and fans alike.
With Colls throwing everything forwards in the late stages, the game became stretched and Stafford almost added a third through Joe Kenton, his low drive flying wide of the post. Kiyoma also saw a chance to put the game to bed, but sent his effort sailing well over the crossbar.
Deep into stoppage time, a quick turn of pace from Scott Bakkor saw the forward bearing down on goal, however the visitors' Morrison was on hand with a last-ditch sliding challenge to shut down Colls hope's of taking a point from the game.
Colls: Nico Defreitas-Hansen, Adam Rooney, Gaz Peet, Jack Lenehan, Danny Lafferty (C), Joel Amado, Ethan Kershaw (Oli Roberts 52'), Aaron Smith (Dec Daniels 75'), Scott Bakkor, Jay Fitzmartin (Luke Nicholls 87'), Marcus Cusani
Unused: Max Bardlsey-Rowe
Report: Danny Brown
Photo: Dave Featherstone
Man of the Match: Joel Amado, sponsored by Les Unsworth