Report: Colls 3-1 Ashton Athletic

Spring had sprung at the Kensite Stadium on Saturday as the sun beamed down on what was a close encounter between top of the pile Atherton Collieries and mid-table Ashton Athletic. Athletic are certainly no mugs, they came into the game with a recent historic penalty shoot-out victory over Chorley in the Lancashire Challenge Trophy. The success set up a showpiece final appearance against Radcliffe Borough which will be played at the Macron Stadium in early April. It is no secret that the two management teams are close friends, despite this they did not make things easy for each other, and why would they? Every point matters for every side at this stage of the season. After taking an early lead, Atheltic eventually went on to lose 3-1 to the relentless Colls in what were hard footballing conditions. After the game, captain Brad Cooke suggested the Kensite was ‘like an oven’, forcing the play to be quite slow and of a poor quality. Two minutes in, however, things were looking good for Atherton as they made a brilliant start. Forward Jordan Cover squared a ball into the Ashton area, this was subsequently cleared to Neil Chappell on the edge. The steady midfielder volleyed the ball straight back at goal, only for Martin Pearson to tip over superbly. It was clear from the opening exchanges that Athletic were not keen to simply gift the Collieries three points, they showed confidence in attack and were assured in midfield, ultimately this caused the Colls problems, and on 18 minutes they were rewarded with the lead. A Mark Truffas push on an Ashton forward saw the referee point straight to the spot, whispers of it being soft echoed around the Kensite, however it is of course the ref who has the final say. Ex Colls mon Daniel Smith took the responsibility for the Yellows, and scored after he directed the ball left of goal, Reid dived the opposite way. Naturally, this unnerved Atherton, not used to being behind on their own patch they looked weary in attack. Despite this they drew level on 23 minutes. Midfielder Vincent Bailey fired an ambitious effort from the edge of the area, Pearson did well to get a hand to it but could only parry straight to the feet of Ben Hardcastle. The lively winger pounced on the opportunity presented and fired into the roof of the net for his 20th goal of a stellar campaign. The boys in black and white had stepped it up a level. Minutes later, Bailey was again causing havoc, indirectly presenting winger Truffas with an opportunity, an opportunity not taken as the ball tickled wide. Regardless of the rather out of character half by the Collieries, they went into the interval with the lead. On 39 minutes Jordan Cover slotted the ball into the back of the net after Bailey threaded a killer ball for him to latch onto, taking full advantage of the pace he has in abundance. It was by no means a pretty half of football, but Clegg and his team were relieved to have turned around the initial 1-0 deficit. Unfortunately the second half was more of the same as the Colls never really bossed play but did enough to secure what eventually became a 3-1 win, and of course that is all that matters. The half opened with a little controversy, a Brad Cooke goal was ruled out for offside. However this was quickly accepted by all following the lack of complaints from those on the field. Cover, on 58 minutes, had a fine chance to double his tally. He again used his speed to pelt down the left wing and cut inside, ultimately He could only curl his effort wide. Athletic showed no sign of tiring, whenever Colls attacked, the Yellows went forward straight after, pressure mounted on the Atherton back four. On 74 minutes, the visitors were gifted with a free kick, just left of centre on the rim of the Atherton box. Goal scorer Smith curled the ball towards the top right hand corner of Reid’s goal. However, the Goalkeeper of the Month was able to get a strong hand to it. The danger was not over just yet as the ball was headed straight back across goal, leaving Hardcastle to clear off the line spectacularly. Breathing a sigh of relief, the Collieries went forward again, and on 77 minutes they themselves were gifted with a free kick, this time central to goal, but still on the edge. Gaz Peet stood up and curled a sublime free kick around the wall and into the back of the net to send the majority of 228 in attendance wild. Reid was forced into another fine save as the visitors never gave up. The evergreen Brian Hatton was played through but the Colls custodian dived smartly to his right to preserve the two goal cushion. It was by no means pretty and Colls were by no means at their best but it certainly was a fine win for Clegg’s men in a game others would have potentially lost. Athletic will consider themselves unlucky not to get something out of the game and will play worse and win. As mentioned earlier, the relentlessness of the sun hampered play for both sides. Next Saturday at the Kensite is a first v second clash when inform Runcorn Linnets come to town. Let's get behind the boys in their quest for the Hallmark Security League Premier Division title.

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