Report: Colls 1-3 Witton Albion

Following the rather nervy 3-2 win against Bacup Borough in the Extra Preliminary of the FA Cup, attentions turned to the next round’s opponents – Evo-Stick North Premier Division South side Witton Albion, these FA Cup ties don’t get any easier, do they? Everyone knew of the talent Albion possessed on the field before the game, and unfortunately they were in no mood for an FA Cup upset. This is was very clear as they took the lead with only three minutes on the clock, Tobani Omotola with the goal after he pushed past the Collieries back line and slotted past Danny Taberner. A far from ideal start for Clegg’s side. If the 208 in attendance were under the impression that this was a poor start for the Colls – things went from poor to downright terrible on 11 minutes when Omotola got his second goal to double the Witton advantage. The tricky forward volleyed into the back of the net, past the despairing Taberner, after he collected a diagonal cross to his feet from the left side of the field. The Atherton faithful were left shell-shocked at such an out of character start. In an attempt to instantly claw something back, the Collieries went on attack from the restart. The ball was played wide to forward winger Ben Hardcastle. In a positive position, he collected and cut inside the area, before he fired just wide of the mark. It was clear that it took two Albion goals to wake the black and whites up as minutes later they found themselves with another fine opportunity. Brad Cooke played the ball down to Kris Holt’s feet on the edge of the D, the lively midfielder then turned the defender and fired his shot at goal. Daniel Roberts did well to collect the ball in his chest. The promise of the previous two attacks was soon undone however as the visitors added a third goal in 16 minutes. A defensive calamity resulted in the ball rolling past defender and Goalkeeper, which left Prince Haywood with an empty goal to tap into. This was where Michael Clegg's boys had to show some bottle. The tie was almost certainly gone but there was professional pride to play for. A glimmer of hope almost! Brad Cooke won a header from a set piece and it crashed into the roof of the net off an Albion defender. The subdued home crowd danced with delight for a second or two, then stopped stone dead when they eyeballed the assistant referee's flag raised 90 degrees. Cooke wasn't offside and as stated the ball went into the onion bag from a fortunate ricochet of an opponent. The ref had to back his assistant and the goal was chalked off much to the displeasure of the locals and relief of the visitors. Interference was the reason cited after the game which was questionable to say the least but in defence of the liner does anybody fully understand the nuances of the offside rule? To lower the impetuously raised flag would have caused chaos. Despite this hammer blow, the Colls were now enjoying some possession and created some chances, however Cooke’s header sailed wide and Battersby’s low and hard shot was well saved by the strong Roberts. On other days both these efforts would have been dispatched. Going into half time, the Atherton faithful were relieved it was only three. Minutes before the break, Taberner was called upon to make a fine save from a Bradley Barnes shot. The tricky winger ran down the left side and cut inside of the area, one-on-one with Taberner – who advanced off his line – he fired low and hard towards the bottom left corner of the goal. Taberner did well to quickly get down and parry behind for a corner. From a Colls point of view, the second half of the game was a much more positive affair. Clegg’s side came out looking more positive and organised in attack. This was confirmed two minutes into the half when Jamie Forbes pulled a goal back for the black and whites. From a corner, Forbes bulleted a header into the back of net, evading his marker in the process. A good set-piece move. Witton, keen to restore their three goal advantage, quickly went on the counter attack. Captain Anthony Gardner swung a deep cross into the Colls area, only for Haywood to tap wide on the far post. This was repeated almost on 53 minutes when it was Ryan Hickman’s turn to tap over this time. The Collieries inched ever closer to reducing the deficit further on 64 minutes. Battersby had the ball at his feet on the edge of the Witton area. Surrounded by defenders, Battersby was unable to turn or release any form of shot at goal. As a result he lost the ball. Luckily, Mark Truffas was on hand as he collected the spills and fired a low and hard effort towards the Witton net. Again, Roberts did well to get down and collect the ball. This was much better and looked more like the Atherton Collieries side we all know and love. Three minutes later the Colls very nearly got back another goal. After a push on the right flank, the Collieries were rewarded with a free kick. Curled into the box, the ball met with the head of Mark Ayres. The prolific defender, deep inside the area, headed wide of the mark on this occasion. Chances came and went for both sides, as Atherton possessed an element of control in this half of the game but towards the conclusion it was evident that it was going to be Witton Albion who would progress to the next round and face Buxton. Everyone inside of the Kensite Stadium that afternoon accepted that fact – that day the black and whites were beaten by a very good, and very strong Witton Albion side.  

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