Report: Colls 1-0 FC United

Atherton Collieries battled to a memorable 1-0 win over Greater Manchester rivals FC United of Manchester in a fierce contest at the Skuna Stadium.

Snowfall over the weekend and heavy rain throughout the game set up a fiesty clash in difficult conditions, with Jay Fitzmartin's first half free-kick proving to be the difference for Brad Cooke's side. To the visitors' credit they pushed Colls all the way, despite being reduced to ten men in the second half.

Four changes to the Colls line-up saw Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, Oli Brown and Ben Hardcastle return to the side. The black and whites started the game on the front foot, captain Danny Lafferty's header forcing Dan Lavercombe into an early save down at his near post.

Jay Fitzmartin gave a glimpse of things to come with a free-kick that dipped narrowly over the bar, before Jack Lenehan saw an effort well-blocked from close range. Injury saw Colls forced into an early change when battling defender Luca Defreitas-Hansen was forced to make way for Marcus Cusani on 27 minutes.

A clumsy trip on Jack Lenehan on the edge of the area set up another deadball opportunity for Jay Fitzmartin and this time the winger made no mistake, curling a superb effort around the wall and into bottom the right-hand corner, earning a booking for his passionate celebrations in the process.

FC United grew into the game as the half wore on with Mackenzie Chapman called into action to tip Keegan Hartley's long-range drive over the crossbar. Tempers frayed moments before the half-time whistle as Oli Brown escaped with a yellow card after a hefty challenge on Matt Van Wyk down by the touchline.

The game reached a flashpoint after the break, with half-time subsitute Faz Sanagre receiving an early bath for an alleged kick on Marcus Cusani down in front of the dugouts. The resulting fracas saw heated exchanges between both sets of players and staff, with Danny Lafferty ending up in the referee's book for his part in the melee.

Despite the man disadvantage, FC United dug in and made life difficult for the Colls following the red card. Jay Fitzmartin saw a great chance to put the game to bed after being slipped in by Bailey Thompson, but his low effort was well-denied by the feet of Dan Lavercombe from close-range.

With the visitors pushing for an equaliser as the rain hammered down, Mackenzie Chapman once again proved dependable between the sticks, turning Luke Griffith's vicious free-kick onto the woodwork. Colls continued to threaten on the counter with Arran Pettifer blazing over the bar following a promising break-away.

Both sides saw chances in the dying stages, with Paul Ennis the latest to be denied by the in-form Mackenzie Chapman. Jay Fitzmartin could have wrapped the game up with a pair of one-on-one opportunities, but both efforts were thwarted in the final seconds. Ultimately it was Colls day, as they claimed a valuable three points and a recorded a memorable home-and-away double over their rivals.

The result gives Colls a big boost in their survival push, with the black and whites now seven points clear of the drop zone with ten left to play. The Collieries take on another local rival on Saturday as they visit Ashton United and will be hoping to build on a recent positive results to mount a late climb up the league standings.

Speaking after the game, Colls manager Brad Cooke said: "Fair play to both teams, it was a difficult surface today but we've ground it out. Credit to FC United, when they went down to ten men they showed a lot of fight and really dug in. But we've got three points, a clean sheet and that's all that matters."

"The result shows how far we've come as a club. FC United are one of the first teams you look for when the fixtures come out, so to beat them twice over the course of the season, I'm proud as punch. It's another derby that we've won. It's big game, everyone knows that. Even if it wasn't pretty at times, it's a huge three points."

"We've got ourselves into a really good position now. We're back in the pack where we believed we could be at the beginning of the season. We've got a great opportunity now and it's down to the lads to put in a committed performance like they did today when we face Ashton on Saturday."

Colls: Mackenzie Chapman, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, Joel Amado, Danny Lafferty (C), Luca Defreitas-Hansen (Marcus Cusani 27'), Ben Hardcastle, Oli Brown (Arran Pettifer 66'), Bailey Thompson (Adam Haw 77'), Jack Lenehan, Jay Fitzmartin

Unused: Adam Rooney, Jesse Ebosele

Man of the Match: (presented by Ignite Soccer): Danny Lafferty (sponsored by Future Fitness Farnworth)

Report: Danny Brown

Photo: Dave Featherstone

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