Report: Hanley 1-4 Colls

Away from home, the Collieries are on fire – ten goals in their last two away games saw Clegg’s side make a statement, do not underestimate the brutal force of the black and white stripes. The goals rained in again on Saturday as the lads put in a near perfect first half display watched by assistant manager Warren Jones, coach Andy Heald and another healthy travelling following. Manager Michael Clegg was unavailable due to a prior commitment in Munich. He will have been a happy man regularly updating his twitter feed quaffing the odd stein of Bavaria’s finest. Atherton were in somewhat of a low key injury crisis, James Brooks made a very welcome return to the starting eleven as he came in to take up the left back position in place of the injured Gaz Peet. Brooks has worked hard over the past year and a half to shake off his bad injury and keep fit – it was great to see ‘the tank’ back! Despite all four Colls goals coming in the first half of the game, Hanley actually registered the first opportunity on goal. With 120 seconds of the game gone, Hanley’s Sean Mountford received the ball on the edge of the area, the robust forward took a touch before he curled over the bar. The Crazy Gang were not concerned though as one minute later Atherton were in front. Cover collected the ball just beyond halfway and pelted deep inside the Blues’ area. As he curled around into the box he noticed his teammates surrounded him in support, he was spoilt for choice. Cover tried to poke the ball back to Mark Battersby, however before he could even touch the ball, it was tapped into the back of the Hanley net by one of their own defenders, Cover’s pass was too quick for him to avoid. Advantage Colls. This lead was doubled on eleven minutes, Justin Pickering sent a superb curled ball around the back four for Cover to latch onto. The pacey striker turned and spotted the run of strike partner Battersby. Having played the prolific forward through, Battersby tapped into the Hanley net with ease, being one on one with Goalkeeper Jackson failed to scare him one bit. Great link up play from the three attack minded players to round off what was a superb Collieries move. Cover caused yet more problems for the Hanley back four minutes later as he danced across the rim of the area. He evaded challenge after challenge before he poked the ball to Pickering only meters away from him. A one-two move saw Cover denied having gone one-on-one with the Keeper. In this instance Jackson made a good save. It was quite enjoyable to watch the strike partnership between Battersby and Cover develop over the course of the 90 minutes – the pair were truly unstoppable as Hanley were left bamboozled on countless occasions. On 18 minutes, Battersby demonstrated his awareness to spot Cover in a superb position just shy of the Hanley goal. A pinpoint cross meant Cover was able to head in with ease and send the Collieries three goals to the good. A couple of half chances came and went for Atherton as it became quite clear that they dominated this half of the game – they gave Hanley no attempt to offer any form of response. With six minutes to go until the interval, the Colls got their fourth. From a dangerous Collieries corner, defender Danny Lafferty headed the ball into the ground only for it to bounce back to him off a defender. Lafferty took a no nonsense approach the second time around as he fired the ball into the roof of the net, yards from goal. Seconds later Cover was one on one with the overworked Jackson and following a collision referee Hunt waved away penalty appeals. It can be said that for the second period of the game, the Collieries had taken their foot off the gas a little. This, however, was understandable when you consider the number of changes the day’s management duo of Jones and Heald had to make in a very short space of time. An injury to Jamie Forbes meant Matt Grimshaw had to slot into right back position. Hanley were a totally different proposition after the break following a clearly audible dressing room rollocking and they showed that they will be a force to be reckoned within their inaugural top flight campaign.. This was despite the fact that Brad Cooke forced a very good save out of Jackson on 55 minutes. Hanley did manage to pull a goal back on 65 minutes. The referee awarded the Stoke side a penalty after Grimshaw was sanctioned for holding at a corner. Dan Cope dusted himself down to fire low and hard in the bottom left hand corner, sending Reid the wrong way in the process. Five minutes later and Hanley had a superb opportunity to halve the deficit in front of them, only for Andrew Nicholas to head over from a curled free kick into the box. One or two fine Reid saves ensured the black and whites registered a fine away win at Hanley. An out-of-character second half performance ended on a slightly more positive note however, Battersby collected from a long range Reid kick, turning nonchalantly before attempted to lob Jackson. The ball never hit the ground but execution lacked power and the shot stopper collected. . If the ball had found the net it would have been the goal of the season. End of! Late on Dave Sherlock was flagged for offside as he bundled home from yards out although Battersby’s centre seemed to have gone backwards. A superb first half performance ensured the three points in what was never going to be an easy game for Atherton – as we keep saying; this division offers no easy games whatsoever. Special mention must go to James Brooks in his comeback game. Four goals for the Colls in this game, by my maths that makes it 16 goals scored in 4 away games played? Not bad going at all. Atherton Collieries - Adam Reid, Jamie Forbes (47' Matt Grimshaw), James Brooks, Vinny Bailey, Mark Ayres, Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle (75' Mark Truffas), Brad Cooke, Mark Battersby, Jordan Cover (78' Dave Sherlock), Justin Pickering  Attendance: 81 Match report by Zach Pierce

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