Report: Colls 9-1 Skelmersdale United

Keen to put right Monday’s 3-1 defeat against Ramsbottom United, Atherton Collieries welcomed Skelmersdale United to an overcast Alder House yesterday. With two wins from four Atherton had made a good start to the season, Manager Michael Clegg wanted more from his side though, more he certainly got. In an attempt to return back to winning ways Clegg made three changes to the starting eleven. Morgan Bacon made his debut in-between the sticks having signed for the Collieries mid-week, forward Jordan Cover returned to the side after serving his three match ban handed to him at last season’s finale against Bamber Bridge - always a welcomed presence up-front, and as a result of injury Matt Grimshaw came in for Danny Lafferty. Yet to win a game this season, Skelmersdale started the game well as they took the lead with just six minutes on the clock. Initially Alex Griffiths forced Bacon into a fine save with a drilled effort from inside the area. From the resulting corner, the ball was headed out before being played along the deck to Paul Ennis just inside of the area. The winger, with ample of time and space, simply curled the ball home. Indeed, the first 15 minutes of the game saw Atherton under a high amount of pressure, if it wasn’t for Bacon’s smart Goalkeeping Clegg’s men would have been buried before the game had even properly started. Early on, the former Carlisle United stopper had to be equal to a Sean Yeldrem drilled effort yards from goal. On 12 minutes his palms were warmed again as William Dunne fired a shot at goal from the edge of the area. Before Skelmersdale’s last substantial effort of the game on 15 minutes, and arguably Bacon’s best stop of this spell. A cross into the danger-zone fell to Griffiths who, again, had plenty of time and space to send an exquisite volley towards the Colls net. Bacon, though, was alert and caught the ball. Knowing something wasn’t quite working Clegg made a change, swapping Ben Conway and Connor Gaul around on the wings. This worked, and suddenly the Collieries were again attacking with real prowess, the visitors failing to offer any real answers. On 24 minutes, the Colls got their equaliser. An Atherton corner triggered a defensive scramble in the Skelmersdale area, the result of which saw the ball bounce free. Player of the Month Ben Hardcastle, who has become somewhat of a poacher of late, was on hand to smash the ball into the back of the net with the outside of his foot. A smart finish considering the context of its production. This really did bolster the confidence of Clegg’s men, and they began to play simply unstoppable football. Captain Vinny Bailey came close to doubling the advantage four minutes later. Conway, now on the left wing, played a defence splitting ball through to Bailey who collected and advanced towards goal. The experienced midfielder’s shot was blocked by Goalkeeper Terence Smith though, the angle too tight. Another corner on 29 minutes saw Atherton get that second. Bailey whipped a pinpoint corner into the area for defender Ian Rowlands to bullet into the back of the net. A header with such power left the Blues without a chance. The Collieries really were playing some fine, attacking football - the best seen all season. Having Cover lead the front line again really did help this, his pace allowed the midfield to be creative with their delivery. Something they did on 38 minutes. Hardcastle turned from goal-scorer to provider as he played a forward curled ball that completely evaded the United back line. Cover did what he does best and latched onto it before he slotted past Smith. A brilliant ball from Hardcastle, and skilled execution from Cover. With seconds to go until the interval, Cover got his second of the game but, rather more importantly, his 100th in a black and white shirt. The forward took advantage of a free ball following a defensive error a good 30 yards from goal, he picked it up, again, advanced, before he riffled into the back of the net on the edge of the area, one-on-one with the Goalkeeper. A fine individual finish from Cover, worthy of his 100th. A fine first half from Clegg’s men as they turned a tricky start into a skilled performance. The second period of the game saw the Colls turn up the heat and really apply some pressure, they pushed Skelmersdale to their limits and way beyond. On 54 minutes they registered their fifth of the game with a fantastic attacking move, it was obvious that this had been worked on in training. After the ball fell to him on the left side, Gaz Peet launched a forward ball towards Grimshaw high in the area. The defender met the ball with a pass left to fellow centre-back Rowlands who slid in to score his second of the game. Defenders turned forwards with, arguably, one of the best moves of the game. Despite the healthy cushion, Atherton continued to press, Peet again influential on 64 minutes. The left-back won the ball magnificently in midfield and pelted down the wing before he crossed to Hardcastle. Initially blocked, Hardcastle’s effort eventually fell to Cover who was on hand to tap into the back of the net. A hat-trick and his 101th goal confirmed. Cover nearly made it seven on, ironically, the 77th minute. Substitute James Sigsworth played Cover through on goal. The forward, carrying the ball forward, curled just over the bar. A penalty on 83 minutes presented the opportunity to make it 7-1. Smith spilled the ball after seemingly collecting, it fell straight to Cover who was presented with an open goal in front of him. To prevent another goal conceded Smith did everything he could to stop the forward getting his fourth, so simply brought Cover down. The referee pointed to the spot and waved the red card, penalty Colls. Hardcastle took responsibility and slotted into the back of the net, the ball chipped the post on its way in. Clegg’s men weren’t finished there, 8-1 the score after 87 minutes. Cover robbed possession just outside the area and played the ball across to Hardcastle in the centre of the area. The player of the month fired into the roof of the net to secure his own hat-trick, a fine finish. As the seconds ticked down, many in Alder House couldn’t quite believe the score-line, something the Colls again added to before the afternoon was out. Following a foul on Peet, another penalty was awarded, again dispatched by Hardcastle, rounding off a quite unbelievable afternoon at Alder House. 15 minutes into the game, 9-1 was unthinkable, but Clegg’s men somehow made it happen, the score line can speak for itself - two hattricks, a centenary of goals for Cover, and Atherton Collieries biggest ever pyramid win since 1982. The black and whites are back, and back with a bang. Clegg and his team continue to make history, join them on the journey. Atherton Collieries: Morgan Bacon, Dave Sherlock, Gareth Peet, Daniel Lambert (Danny Lambert 67'), Ian Rowlands, Matthew Grimshaw, Ben Hardcastle, Vincent Bailey ©, Jordan Cover, Ben Conway (James Sigsworth 60'), Connor Gaul (Glenn Matthews 60'). Substitutes (not used): Deven Golden, Daniel Lafferty. Skelmersdale United: Terence Smith, Charles Duke, Jack McConville, Tom Molyneux, Phil Mooney ©, Tyler Brownsword, Alex Griffiths, William Dunne, Kevin Edgar, Sean Yeldrem and Paul Ennis – Substitutes: Jack Fleming, James Gallway, Calum Woods, David Moore. Attendance: 199 Match Report: Zach Pierce Photograph: David Featherstone

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