A depleted Atherton Collieries gained three points against Winsford United in the league on Monday night. The home side were without nine first team players and named just three players on the bench. Despite this, a strong first half performance from Colls proved enough to record their first victory over the Cheshire side since 2006. While any real chance of promotion has disappeared, third place is still very much in the hands of the black and white stripes as they now sit ten points ahead of 1874 Northwich. This could prove crucial next season when the higher ranked sides received byes in the FA competitions.
The reverse fixture earlier in the season was a frustrating affair from Collieries perspective, and it looked like it may be the same again after Winsford made a positive start. Daniel Egan had a shot from the edge of the area that was comfortably saved by Adam Reid, who had another solid performance in the Collieries goal.
Mark Truffas - the utility player - had a fantastic first half. He created Colls first chance of the match on five minutes when he cut inside and fired the ball towards the top right hand corner from a tight angle. Dale Latham stretched to tip the ball around for a corner.
The deadlock was broken on 11 minutes through man of the match, Jordan Cover. The striker picked the ball up around 25 yards from goal and noticed Dale Latham was off his line. Taking a touch to steady himself, the striker then delicately lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
It was a goal that helped settle Collieries, who began to knock the ball around well. Justin Pickering was impressive down the right hand side, running at the Winsford defenders at every given opportunity.
On 17 minutes, Mark Truffas did well to cross the ball over from the left hand side. Chipping it towards the back post Jordan Cover was unable to keep his header down, and the ball dipped marginally over the crossbar. Members of the home support cheered as they thought it had dropped in.
The lead was doubled on 22 minutes thanks to the pace and sheer tenacity of Jordan Cover. A through ball was threaded in behind the Winsford defenders who were unable to get there in time. Cover nipped in and carried possession forward, knocking the ball around the advancing goalkeeper and subsequently into an empty net.
Winsford had struggled to build many attacks since the opening exchanges of the match, largely down to the hard work of Matt Grimshaw and Mark Ayres who weren't allowing Winsford much joy in front of goal. On 26 minutes, the visitors had an attack down the right hand side through Kyle Riley, but the near post flick by Samuel Howell proved ineffective, falling into the hands of Adam Reid.
The visiting player manager Lee Duckworth took a free kick that struck the wall on 36 minutes, before Howell again hit a speculative effort which cleared the crossbar five minutes later. Collieries had taken their foot off the pedal and were seemingly happy going into the interval with a two goal lead.
Arguably, it came against the run of play when Jordan Cover grabbed his hat trick on the stroke of half time. This time, he finished from close range, taking his goals tally to 26 for the campaign.
Winsford came out fighting in the second half and had their reward just two minutes after the restart. I was still queueing up in the tea hut when I heard cheers from the far end of the ground. Danny Egan managed to slide the ball past Adam Reid.
Duckworth's men were now playing with confidence, with Kyle Riley causing Collieries a few problems like he did in the reverse fixture when he was introduced.
Atherton's injury woes went from bad to worse on 54 minutes when Josh Messer went over on his shoulder. He was replaced by Sullay Ahmed, while he went off to hospital with a suspected dislocated collar bone. We wish Josh a speedy recovery. As a result of this latest injury, Mark Truffas found himself playing at left back; something we thought we would never see.
On 64 minutes, Matt Grimshaw calmly cleared a cross off the line when he was pressured by a Winsford attacker. The corner was dealt with and the game became a midfield battle, with Winsford coming out on top more than their hosts the longer the match progressed. Jonathan Hurst replaced Jordan Cover who was applauded off by the crowd of 162.
With ten minutes remaining, Collieries were presented with a chance to seal the three points when James Kirby was upended in the penalty area. On another day, the Winsford defender may have been sent off, but the referee, much to his credit, was keen to keep his cards in his pockets all night and not one player was cautioned.
It was Kirby who took responsibility for the penalty. He dusted himself off, and powered the ball into the right hand corner despite Dale Latham getting a strong hand to it. This was the strikers last contribution of the evening as he was replaced by Andy Heald, who lapped up the cheers from the Infamous Leigh Branch.
Collieries played well at times, given the long and extensive injury list. Pickering and Grimshaw were stand out performers, while Jordan Cover will be more than happy to record another hat trick. Winsford played well, and were unlucky to head into the half time interval 3-0 down, but showed good spirit and determination to fight back in the second half.
The next match for Collieries is due to take place on Thursday night against Ladybridge in the Bolton Hospital Cup. This is the semi-final stage, and so has to be played at the neutral venue of Atherton Laburnum Rovers. Kick off is at 19:30.
Then it is back to league action on Saturday, when we make the trip down to Alsager Town. A coach may be booked for this match, so please keep checking social media to see if anything is planned. Atherton Collieries: Adam Reid, Jake Kenny, Josh Messer (Sullay Ahmed), Dave Sherlock, Matt Grimshaw, Mark Ayres, Justin Pickering, Ben Hardcastle, Jordan Cover (Jonathan Hurst), James Kirby (Andy Heald), Mark Truffas - Substitutions: Sullay Ahmed, Jonathan Hurst, Andy HealdWinsford United: Dale Latham, Adam Bayley, Lee Duckworth, Samuel Parr, David Davies, Ryan Eiselt, Samuel Cook, Samuel Howell, Kyle Riley, Daniel Egan, Ryan Mellor - Substitutions: Daniel Hudson, Dean Clarke, Aaron Stott, Elliott Hull, Scott TaylorMan of the match - Jordan Cover Attendance: 162
Match report: Joseph Gibbons
Photograph: AJ Photography