Report: Colls 3-0 Irlam

Atherton Collieries moved to within two points of clinching the league title with a convincing 3-0 win over Irlam at Alder House on Monday night. Michael Clegg’s side can claim their first piece of silverware with a win at Cheadle Town on Wednesday. The squad was rotated from Saturday’s 3-1 win at Holker Old Boys as Collieries prepared for six games in eight days. Luke Gibson and Rob Swanton replaced Gareth Carson and Keith Wedge at the back. Brad Cooke missed the match through injury and was replaced by Josh Messer, while Gareth Peet and Mark Battersby both returned to the starting lineup with Nathan Battersby and Mark Truffas dropping to the bench. Opting to start with two up front the Collieries attacking line was spearheaded by Jordan Cover and Mark Battersby. Both players got their names on the score sheet in the first half while Gareth Peet scored the final goal of the evening in the second. The reverse fixture earlier in the season saw Atherton win 5-1 and it could have been a more emphatic score line this time around if it wasn’t for some fantastic displays by the Irlam players. The young left back Lewis Adams dealt well with the threat of Ben Hardcastle throughout the first half. A special mention must go to right winger Gareth Meredith whose energetic approach to play carried on until the final whistle. Shooting up the slope in the first half Collieries found themselves up against a motivated and hardworking team who competed for every tackle. However the visitors rarely troubled the Collieries backline. The first opportunity of the match arrived on eight minutes when Ben Hardcastle floated a long free kick to the back post where it was met by the head of Kristian Holt. With goalkeeper Saul Lomax-Newton beaten his effort flew just wide of the left hand post. Collieries opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Jordan Cover was brought down from behind in the area. Mark Battersby rifled the ball into the bottom left hand corner to take his league and cup tally to 60 goals this campaign. Holt who captained the side had another attempt at goal ten minutes later. Lomax-Newton cleared the ball following a defensive error and it fell to Holt who saw the goalkeeper off his line before attempting to lob him. With the Colls supporters willing the ball in it unfortunately dropped inches wide of the goal. Irlam came close to equalising on 35 minutes when Ryan Longworth forced the ball under the oncoming body of Danny Taberner. It looked to be going into the bottom left hand corner but Matt Grimshaw showed great anticipation to scoop the ball away for a corner kick. Five minutes before the interval Collieries scored their most direct goal of the season. Taberner launched the ball upfield where Jordan Cover adeptly brought the ball under control, took it past the defender and fired it unerringly into the bottom left hand corner with the outside of his boot. The second half belonged to the home side as Irlam appeared to tire. Mark Battersby and Kristian Holt were linking up well and the latter once again came close to scoring on 60 minutes but he was denied with by a great low save. Two minutes later and it was 3-0 when Josh Messer threaded a precise ball through to Gareth Peet on the edge of the box. The winger took one touch before striking an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Wes Bancroft was introduced for his first appearance since December when he replaced Mark Battersby. Mark Truffas came on for Ben Hardcastle and Matty Boland took the place of Jordan Cover. These changes seemed to enliven Collieries, with Bancroft’s physical presence and speed causing problems for the Irlam defence. Bancroft was unfortunate not to get on the score sheet when he was put through only for the ball to bobble as he hit it towards goal, resulting in the ball flashing past the right hand post. Overall, a satisfying performance from the black and white stripes that leaves them needing only one more win to secure the title. Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Jake Kenny, Rob Swanton, Josh Messer, Luke Gibson, Matt Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle (Mark Truffas), Kristian Holt, Mark Battersby (Westley Bancroft), Jordan Cover (Matty Boland), Gareth Peet - Substitutes: Nathan Battersby, Keith Wedge, Mark Truffas, Westley Bancroft, Matty Boland Irlam: Saul Lomax-Newton, Barry Lomas, Lewis Adams, Ryan Longworth, Conor Brathwaite, Ryan Ledson, Gareth Meredith, David Wright, Jordan Icely, Jordan Smith, Ben Christopher - Substitutes: Dean Burgess, Gary Prescott, Steven Mills Attendance: 139 Match report by Joseph Gibbons

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