Report: Colls 3-2 Bacup Borough

The start of the 2016/17 season saw FA Cup football return to Atherton. The visitors were Bacup Borough and it was the third such meeting between the two sides in the world's most famous cup competition. Borough had come close to promotion back into the Premier Division last season so came into the match hoping they could knock out a side who, it is fair to say, have fared better in recent tussles. There was a bit of a selection crisis for Collieries in the lead up to the match as despite having three goalkeepers registered, all were unavailable. The deadline to sign players on for the match had passed so the only option was to stick an outfield player in net. It was a three horse race between Matt Grimshaw, Brad Cooke and Dave Sherlock for the gloves as they have all had to play in net for Colls at some stage. It was Sherlock who came out on top after impressing with his unorthodox penalty save against AFC Liverpool last campaign. At left back there was a full competitive debut for Mike Lea who had signed from Warrington Town over the summer. Meanwhile, right back Jamie Forbes who arrived from Ashton United last week made the bench. With the sunshine lighting up downtown Atherton and a brass version of Abide With Me playing over the speakers, it was time to get the season underway. Collieries were sporting their new home kit for the first time while Bacup were in their Burnley-esque change strip. The first half was dominated by Colls who deservedly took a 3-0 lead into the interval. It could have been more if it wasn't for a tremendous performance from Aaron Ashley in the Bacup net. On four minutes, Mark Battersby squandered a clear chance to open the scoring when he found himself one-on-one with Ashley. Having outpaced the backtracking defenders, Battersby had too much time to think about where to place his shot and ultimately knocked it straight down the middle right at the goalkeeper. The striker had a chance to make up for his early effort just a minute later from the penalty spot. Gareth Peet had been fouled on the edge of the area as he skipped through a sea of bodies. Battersby, who was on spot kick duty while Mark Ayres was on the bench, hit the ball low to the left hand side of the goal and Ashley saved. Seven minutes into the match and another chance came and went. Mike Lea found himself in an advanced position and gained possession in the area. He hit the ball towards the back post and Ashley saved it, parrying the ball back to the defender. This time it was squared to Ben Hardcastle who saw his shot from a metre out deflect over the bar for a corner. The deadlock was eventually broken on 14 minutes when Mark Battersby took another penalty. Again. Peet was fouled, this time after cutting in from the right hand side. With pace, Battersby sent the ball into the bottom right hand corner as Ashley dived the other way. That was his 98th competitive goal for Colls. Two minutes later and the home side's advantage was doubled with the goal of the game. Vinny Bailey picked the ball up on the edge of the area and curled the ball into the right hand corner over the helpless Ashley. A great finish from the midfielder who put in a man of the match performance. On 20 minutes the lead was extended to 3-0 when Mark Battersby turned provider. He gained possession on the left hand side and sent in a curling cross to Ben Hardcastle. Applying the deftest of touches the winger guided the ball into the far corner. Atherton had been playing very good football and continued to do so for the remainder of the half, albeit with a slightly slower tempo and with less urgency. Bacup regrouped during the half time break and came out for the second half with the bit between their teeth. Dave Sherlock had not yet been tested in the Colls goal and his first real piece of action came on 79 minutes when he was picking the ball out of his net. Bacup had won a free kick around 25 yards out and it was blasted into the wall where a Colls player got in the way with his arm. A penalty was awarded and D'arcy O'Connor expertly hit the ball into the left hand corner... if he would have missed the officials probably would have ordered a retake as Sherlock was around 5 metres off his line by the time O'Connor had completed his run up! It was a case of squeaky bum time at the end of the match when Johnny Thompson pulled another goal back for Bacup during the first minute of additional time. A cross came in from the left hand side and Thompson was on hand to slot the ball past Sherlock. There was only a minute of the game remaining, but you could sense some nervousness in the air as Bacup went on the attack again from the restart.  Overall, a strong first half performance from Collieries proved enough to take Michael Clegg's side through to the next round of the FA Cup. They will host Evo-Stik Division One South side Witton Albion at home in the next round on Saturday 20th August. Commiserations to Brent Peters and his side, we wish them all the best for the season ahead. Atherton Collieries: Dave Sherlock, Jake Kenny (Forbes 73'), Michael Lea, Josh Messer, Danny Lafferty, Matt Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke (Kris Holt 46'), M. Battersby, Bailey, G. Peet (Truffas 63')- Substitutions not used: Mark Ayres, Chris Pauley Attendance: 146 Match report by Joseph Gibbons    

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