Report: Eccleshall 3-4 Atherton Collieries

The annual Colls’ Jolly Boys outing has seen the Collieries travel to locations such as Coventry, Newcastle and Anglesey. This year, Atherton found themselves making the journey to Staffordshire to take on Eccleshall of the NWCFL First Division in this year’s pre-season venture. The Collieries took a weakened squad south with them – Danny Taberner, Mark Ayres, Josh Messer, Mark Truffas and Gareth Peet were all unavailable for selection. The weather favoured both players and supporters alike – a sunny and mild day. The pitch at Pershall Park was in pristine condition and Eccleshall can pride themselves of such a fine surface. Atherton made a very slow start to the game as Eccleshall made use of the opening exchanges. On 13 minutes Eccleshall fired a shot just wide of the post – stand in Goalkeeper Adam Green saw the ball wide as he waved it away. Despite early Eccleshall confidence, the Collieries had an attempt on goal themselves on 22 minutes. The ball was played to Ahmed Sullay on the edge of the area. The midfielder took a touch himself before he blazed the ball well over the bar. From one new signing to another five minutes later, forward James Kirby fired just wide of the post in an ambitious shot 25 yards out. Eccleshall very nearly found themselves with the advantage eight minutes from the interval. A corner was played in by the Blues; said corner was cleared away by Green who punched away from danger. Unfortunately, the ball landed at the feet of an Eccleshall attacker who directed his shot from the edge of the area towards goal. Green, however, recovered to tip the ball over the bar. Three successive shots before Half Time saw the Colls almost take the lead. On 40 minutes, the ball was slipped through the Eccleshall defence for winger Ben Hardcastle to run onto. His shot, however, was grasped by the Eccleshall goalkeeper. Two minutes later, the same situation was repeated. This time, though, the ball was slipped through to Kirby, who was similarly denied. Another two minutes had passed when the ball was played across the Eccleshall area for Keith Wedge to collect and just clip over the bar. Half Time – Eccleshall 0-0 Atherton Collieries On the first half showing of a typical, slow paced but routine pre-season friendly, not one spectator in the ground predicted what was about to happen in the second period of the game as it came to life. Atherton started with intent and an element of determination. Five minutes into the second half, midfielder Kris Holt picked up the ball and ran through the Eccleshall defence. However, Holt sent his shot well over the bar. Minutes later, Wedge picked the ball up on the wing and directed his run along the rim of the Eccleshall area. The defender's shot flew just wide of the mark unfortunately for Atherton. On 73 minutes the Collieries were presented with their best opportunity of the game. On the edge of the Eccleshall box, Sullay passed the ball across to substitute Andy Heald on the left wing. Heald played the ball across to Holt inside the box and guided the ball just wide. Another opportunity passed two minutes later when Jordan Cover latched onto a ball played through to him. The substitute controlled and rounded the goalkeeper. However, once rounded, Cover saw his effort trickle wide of the left hand post. Seconds later, Sullay saw his effort on goal denied as the Eccleshall number one did well to save. With 13 minutes to go, the game sparked to life. Despite the relentless second half pressure from Colls, it was Eccleshall who took the lead through Angelo Errico. The left winger impressed against Collieries last season, and he continued to do so when he ran into the area with the ball. Green ran out in attempt to dispossess him but Errico took advantage of this and slipped the ball into the back of the net. Three minutes later, Eccleshall found themselves two goals to the good. An initial shot was fired at Green who parried the ball back out into play. The ball landed at the feet of Tom Loraso who only had to tap the ball into the back of the net. Seconds, not minutes had passed when Cover pulled a goal back on 83 minutes. Jake Kenny, who had played in the right midfielder position this second half, tapped the ball across the face of goal after it had been played up to him. Cover was in positon to hit the ball into the goal. Five minutes remained when the Collieries’ hard work was complete and an equaliser had been found. Kris Holt collected the ball in the Eccleshall half of the pitch. He attempted to pass the ball onto a team mate but failed to do so under pressure. Instead, he released a shot which thundered into the top right hand corner of the goal. The stop-watch read 88 minutes when Atherton took the lead for the first time. In a training ground corner tactic, Cover and Holt played a quick one-two. In a cross-come-shot, Cover then curled the ball over everyone in the box and into the top corner off the post. A fine finish. 2-3, will that bring an end to the goal scoring with only two minutes of the game remaining? Of course not. Seconds remained when the ball was played to Jimmy Gartside in the Collieries’ box. Gartside flipped the ball up into the air, turned and volleyed into the back of the net. A fantastic goal. Despite the equaliser, the Collieries pressed on in search of a winner, even with only seconds left on the clock. That winner came through Holt. Nathan Battersby played the ball into the box and into the midfielder who was on hand to tap in the empty goal. Full Time – Eccleshall 3-4 Atherton Collieries A pre-season friendly that set the heart racing, what a game and what a test for both sides. Thank you to Eccleshall for their wonderful hospitality and good luck for the rest of the season. Match Report by Zach Pierce  

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