Report: Colls 1 Barnton 0

In their first outing since being knocked out of the FA Vase last weekend, Micheal Clegg's Collieries side showed a huge amount of mettle to come through a stern test against visitors Barnton and get their Cleethorpes disappointment out of their system by collecting all three points at the Kensite Stadium. Playing down the slope in the first half, Colls started in determined mood and managed to strike the woodwork twice in a matter of seconds even before the clock had got in to double figures. First to the strike the frame of the goal was Mark Battersby, in possession on the left hand side of the penalty area and virtually facing the touchline but somehow getting away an almost nonchalant left footed strike that hammered the underside of the crossbar and was scrambled away for a corner. The delivery that followed found the head of Jamie Forbes and again he thumped the crossbar with Barnton goalkeeper Matthew Conkie helpless on this occasion, though he did prove to have an impressive afternoon as he was later to produce a string of quality saves, one of which followed only a minute later when he tipped over Battersby's volley on the turn. Finding Conkie in inspired form and the Barnton defence in resolute mood, it was a set piece that was arguably to prove the difference to the sides as Mark Truffas steamed forward on one of his typically determined dribbles that invariably only ends one way, and this was to prove no different as he was bundled in to a heap inches outside of the penalty area. The referee ignored the claims for a penalty, but that made little difference as Truffas stepped up to the free kick that followed and superbly curl the ball around the wall and in via the left hand post. Conkie did well to get down to his left and get a touch to the ball, but this time the woodwork worked against him and Colls were in front. Stand in centre half James Brooks was doing a marvellous job alongside Forbes in marshalling the back four, allowing Colls to continue to press forward, and again they were denied by the woodwork with the final kick of the first half when Ben Hardcastle struck Conkie's post, leaving Colls in front by a single goal at the break. Barnton began the second half with much more attacking verve and, having been so frustrated by the woodwork in the first half, it was Colls' turn to be thankful seven minutes after the break as the visitors struck Adam Reid's right hand post. The second half action was lively and frenetic but lacking in fluidity, and Colls thought they'd sealed the win with nine minutes remaining when substitute Henoc Mukendi produced a wonderful delivery from the left hand side to pick out the head of Neil Chappell, but the home celebrations were cut short by the flag of the referee's assistant. Another chance to seal the win was missed a minute later when Jake Kenny broke forward and laid the ball off for Brad Cooke on the edge of the penalty area, but the skipper's attempt rolled agonisingly wide of the target. As it was, the home side held firm and were able to celebrate a vital three points on their return to league action, keeping them level on points with leaders Bootle with a game in hand. Next Saturday (11th February) sees Colls travel to Barnoldswick Town for a 3pm kick off before Bootle are the visitors to the Kensite only two days later (Monday 13th February, 7.45pm) for what is lined up to be a real clash of the titans at the top of the table. Atherton Collieries; Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, James Brooks, Jamie Forbes, Neil Chappell (Josh Messer 88), Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, David Sherlock (Liam Wood 68), Mark Truffas (Henoc Mukendi 78). Substitutes (not used); Vinny Bailey, Jordan Cover Attendance - 166 Match report by Matt Lawton Photograph by David Featherstone

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