A side that have undergone an overhaul over the summer break, Glossop North End were an unknown entity going into yesterday's Evo-Stik West season opener. The Collieries, though, had too strengthened with Manager Michael Clegg's first XI of the campaign handing out three competitive debuts. Ian Rowlands partnered Captain Danny Lafferty at the back, Ben Conway grasped the right-winger position moving Ben Hardcastle into central midfield, and Tom Bentham up front as a lone striker.
Backed up by an impressive pre-season campaign, it was a little surprising to see the Colls make a nearvy start to the game, taking the first twenty minutes to settle. Just two minutes in saw Greg Hartley forced into a very smart save as a deflected header from ex-Atherton forward Darhyl Mason made its way towards goal. A quite vital save that prevented an early North End opener.
The Collieries registered their first attempt on goal just shy of ten minutes. The tricky Adam Farrell picked up the ball just outside the area and cut inside. The winger spotted a gap in the Glossop defence and fired a dipping shot just over the bar. North End stopper Russ Saunders was worried.
Hartley is known for his awesome kicking abilities, absolutely it adds a different dynamic to the Colls attacking strategy. A strategy employed on 14 minutes. The stopper sent a ball forward that completely evaded the Glossop defensive line. Bentham was allowed to exploit this and picked up the ball just outside the right half of the area. An ultimately tame effort was produced as Bentham carried but failed to produce any results. A smart move coming from the Hartley-Bentham duo, though.
Atherton's defensive capabilities were called upon on 25 minutes as Glossop were awarded with three consecutive set pieces. The Collieries, led by Lambert, handled it well though with Hartley making a fantastic save as he tipped over a dipping Darren McKnigh volley. On the break three minutes later, though, Hardcastle stung the palms of Saunders as he picked up a loose ball and fired a bobbling shot at goal.
On 37 minutes, the deadlock was broken. Conway, heroically, won the ball off the Glossop defense in midfield, allowing him to pass onwards to Hardcastle. The now experienced midfielder carried into the area dismissing all challenges as he went before he drilled into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. A smart, composed finish from Hardcastle, possible thanks to Conway's earlier challenge.
Another Atherton break just before half-time saw Gaz Peet advance down the left wing and drill the ball across to Bentham. The winger so nearly turned from provider to scorer, but his cross-come-shot was saved well by Saunders.
The Collieries did double their lead immediately after the restart. Again, Peet was played down the left wing, this time by Farrell. The winger whipped in a glorious, exact cross into the area for Hardcastle to get under and head into the back of the net. A satisfying header that saw Hardcastle score his second of the game without breaking sweat.
Colls controlled the majority of the second period of the game, holding the ball in midfield and allowing Glossop to simply run around them. It was a great period of play. The only highlight came on 77 minutes from a Glossop corner, substitute Josh Lowe with am ambitious over head kick from a corner.
At full time Clegg's men could celebrate a fine start to the league campaign. Two goals, one clean sheet and a controlled performance.
A special shout-out to both Danny Lafferty and Ben Hardcastle. Whilst wearing the arm-band, Lafferty played his 100th game in an Atherton shirt, a fantastic achievement! Also, Hardcastle for his man-of-the-match performance. The midfielder barely broke sweat throughout the ninety, showing how much he has progressed since signing in 2014.
Games are coming thick and fast, and Clegg's men will be looking to build on this result on Monday night against Colwyn Bay down at the Kensite. Goal(s): Ben Hardcastle (38', 47') Attendance: 309