Report: Congleton Town 1-2 Colls

Atherton Collieries and Congleton Town met for the first time since August 2012, when the black and white stripes of Atherton came out on top against their higher ranked opposition. A Paul Prescott penalty and a late wonder strike from Phil Williams saw the minnows progress into the next round. This was despite a bizarre Simon Howard own goal gifting the yellow and black striped visitors an early lead. It was another enthralling encounter this time around, as once again Collieries came out on top with a late goal settling proceedings.  Collieries came into this match in fourth place, retuning back to league action following defeat at Newton Aycliffe in the FA Vase. Congleton meanwhile found themselves in the bottom half of the table.  Michael Clegg was without striker Jordan Cover and midfielder Josh Messer, while defender Keith Wedge had left the club earlier in the week. We wish him all the best, and congratulate him on the birth of his little girl. Apparently she is already a Colls mon. Mark Battersby started up front on his own, supported by Ben Hardcastle and Mark Truffas on respective wings. Brad Cooke and Kristian Holt complete the midfield alongside Nathan Battersby who put in a match winning performance.    Arguably Collieries controlled the match, but often found themselves open at the back as they committed bodies forward in an attempt to take the lead. The first real chance of the match came on nine minutes when Ben Hardcastle picked the ball up in midfield and surged towards goal. With a defender on his back, the winger stuck the ball towards the far corner but goalkeeper Dominic Kurasik pushed the ball wide of the post. On 14 minutes, Nathan Battersby thread the ball through to Mark Battersby who found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Without realising he perhaps had more space than he thought, the striker opted to hit the ball first time on the turn and scuffed it wide of the right hand post.  Ten minutes later and Michael Clegg's side had another shot at goal. Gareth Peet bombed up the left hand side from the full back position and crossed the ball into Brad Cooke. With his back towards goal, he laid the ball off to Kristian Holt who was positioned on the edge of the box. The ball was fired towards goal, but once again, Kurasik was able to tip the ball around the post.  It came as a surprise when Congleton opened the scoring on 26 minutes with their first worthwhile effort on goal. The ball bounced around in the Collieries' area before it was volleyed into the back of the net by Declan Fletcher. It came against the run of play. As Collieries looked to restore parity they gained a penalty in the 31st minute. Gareth Peet dribbled into the area and cut across two defenders. The latter Town defender upended the rampant Peet and a penalty was correctly awarded by the referee. Mark Battersby took control of the situation but saw his spot kick well saved by the goalkeeper. Was it going to be one of those afternoons? A minute later and Kristian Holt had yet another shot from the edge of the area. In hindsight, the midfielder deserved a goal for his tenacious performance. He got stuck in throughout and proved pivotal in breaking down the home side's build up play as the match progressed. 37 minutes and yet again a chance went begging for the visitors. Brad Cooke found himself running towards the byline pressured by the Congleton left back. Cooke dinked the ball towards the back post where it found the head of Mark Battersby. Unable to steer his header towards goal, he correctly opted to nod it across the face. Unfortunately nobody was on hand to knock the ball into an empty net. The final chance of the half saw Collieries hit the post. Gareth Peet fired a high cross in from the left hand side towards the back post. It found Ben Hardcastle who took a touch, cut inside the left back and fired his effort towards the right hand post. Danger was subsequently cleared and the referee blew for the interval. Collieries faithful were in high spirits at half time. They had controlled the half, had numerous opportunities to score and were ultimately punished by a mistake at the back. The second half began how the first hand ended. Ben Hardcastle was fed down the right hand side and found himself through on goal. He opted to fire a low shot across the face of goal towards the bottom left hand corner but once again the goalkeeper was able to tip the ball around the post. Jacob Jones came on to replace Mark Truffas on the left hand side and the Southport loanee proved to be a thorn in Congleton's side. His pace and skill provided numerous opportunities as the match progressed. Dave Sherlock was also introduced, in place of Gareth Peet. On 68 minutes, Kristian Holt headed a corner on to the crossbar, aided by the fingertip of goalkeeper Kurasik. Moments later and Collieries finally had the ball in the back of the net, but the linesman on the far side adjudged Mark Ayres to be offside when he headed the ball into the far corner. Frustrations were now beginning to show as tackles went flying in and the officials took centre stage. Jake Kenny was booked for a late foul, before he was sent his marching orders minutes later. Confusion ensued when he was handed a second yellow card in front of the dugouts. While he had the ball in his hands to take a throw in Congleton attempted to make a change. A substitute crossed the white wash before the Congleton manager reversed his decision and sent another player on instead; much to the bemusement of  all in attendance. Kenny was then shown a second yellow for questioning the etiquette. In between the two yellows, there were joyous moments as Collieries drew level; and deservedly so. Kristian Holt swung in a deep cross from the right hand side and Nathan Battersby was on hand to head past the goalkeeper. He wheeled away and celebrated with his team mates in front of the large army of travelling supporters. There was now wind in the proverbial sails. A minute later and the Collieries players were incensed when they were not awarded a second penalty of the match. Ben Hardcastle crossed the ball from the left hand side, and it appeared to strike the arm of the Congleton right back. A corner was awarded. Hardcastle was booked for his protests. With four minutes remaining, the home side came close to snatching all three points. With a man less at the back Collieries looked vulnerable in the closing stages as the game became extremely stretched. A shot was struck from the edge of the area and Danny Taberner was called into action, tipping the effort over the crossbar. The resulting corner should have been buried into the back of the net, but the attacking header flew over the crossbar. Some unhappy cowboys and cowgirls at the far end of the ground held their pistons in the air with disbelief. Now on the attack. Collieries themselves came close to sealing the win when Mark Battersby saw his flicked effort cleared off the line.  Four minutes of added time were signalled by the referee. Three minutes into this and there were scenes amongst the away contingent. Jacob Jones picked the ball up on the left hand wing and played it through to Nathan Battersby. He surged towards the area and played in Dave Sherlock. Skipping inside one challenge he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper and buried the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was nothing more than Atherton deserved. A fantastic team performance. Yeeehaaaa! Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Jake Kenny, Gareth Peet, Kristian Holt, Mark Ayres, Callum Jones, Ben Hardcastle, Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, Nathan Battersby, Mark Truffas - Substitutions: Matt Grimshaw, Jacob Jones, Dave Sherlock, Andy Heald Attendance: 183 Man of the Match: Ben Hardcastle   Report by Joseph Gibbons  

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