It was the 10th Of February this year when Michael Clegg's charges last visited The Four Crosses Construction Arena and they made the rare trek across the border more in more hope than anticipation. It had been ten games since victory had been savoured and in all honesty it was the first time that sometimes overused word 'crisis' could possibly have been spoken since the gaffer took the reins in August 2014. Colwyn Bay outplayed the black n white stripes totally but a late, late Ben Hardcastle wonder strike pick pocketed a very important three points and the team kicked on from this culminating in the glorious May Integro Challenge Cup triumph. This time round the players entered the fray on the back of a couple of consecutive league defeats in games which has seen the usually razor sharp attack leave the scorer untroubled. A return to winning ways was what the doctor ordered but the hosts were running into a bit of good form themselves and looking to play their way out of their mid-table position.
Clive Smith made his Colls debut following his move from Droylsden and Ben Conway returned to the starting XI after a spell on the sidelines through injury.
The first half proceedings were the total opposite of the last meeting in Old Colwyn. In the February encounter Colls were made to chase shadows in the opening forty five minutes but this time The Bay were moved around the pitch hunting the ball as they played against both an outfit ultra comfortable in possession and a strong wind. Despite their grip on the football Colls didn't really create anything clear cut, the best opportunity being on the half hour mark when Vinny Bailey's smart effort from distance was nonchalantly palmed the bar by 'giant' custodian Andy Coughlin. The hosts stand out moment was as early as the fourth minute when James Barrigan was played through but Greg Hartley was on hand to snuff out the danger.
The second half saw the heavens open with intent and Colwyn had the adverse conditions on their side but could they use them to their advantage especially given that they had already expended an awful lot of energy. Tom Bentham had an early decent shout for a penalty flatly refused and Craig Pritchard flashed a shot wide of Hartley's goal. On sixty two minutes The Collieries took the lead. Dave Sherlock played a neat one-two with Ben Hardcastle before he slotted the ball past the advancing Coughlin. A well crafted goal and that was the talented midfielder's last involvement of the game as he was instantly replaced by the returning from injury Connor Gaul. Sherlock left the field to the sounds of the Colls faithful ringing in his ears. Just over five minute later the lead was doubled. Bailey floated in a teasing free kick and Ian Rowlands beat Coughlin to head into the unguarded net for a birthday notch.
The hosts didn't let their heads drop and the lively Barrigan pulled a goal back on seventy three minutes. The ball was arrived at his feet after some good midfield play and his finish gave Hartley no chance whatsoever. Both teams had chances to add to their tallies. Jordan Cover hit a piledriver which may have burst the net had it not been narrowly off target while
Hartley had to save a couple from distance as the Welshmen looked to snatch a point.
A handy return to form for Michael Clegg's crew and a deserved three points eked out in often horrific conditions. An excellent all round team display which kept the side in third place as the top two Runcorn Linnets and Radcliffe also garnered maximum points. Next Saturday Colls host Glossop North End at The Skuna Stadium. Let's get as many down as possible for the only home game in the festive period. KO 3pm. Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Vinny Bailey, Danny Lafferty (C), Ian Rowlands, Dave Sherlock (Connor Gaul 63'), Vinny Bailey. Tom Bentham (Jordan Cover 66'), Ben Hardcastle, Ben Conway (Josh Peet 89). Substitutes (not used): Matt Grimshaw
Goal(s): David Sherlock (62'), Ian Rowlands (69')
MOM - Danny Lambert - Broke the play down in the middle of the park expertly when called upon. Solid work which can often go unnoticed. Attendance: 170
Photograph: David Featherstone