Report: Irlam 1-1 Colls

Fresh from promotion, Irlam are still finding their feet in the Premier Division, but they are taking no prisoners in the process. The Collieries approached this Friday night spectacular knowing that what lay ahead of them would not be an easy game, adding to that, the black and whites found themselves rather light in numbers with a number of key players missing due to injury and work commitments. Irlam started the game well controlling possession in the opening stages, former Colls star Matty Boland saw his tame shot from the edge of the area deflected wide for a corner. This was the signal Colls needed, Irlam were up for it. Despite Irlam’s positive start to the game Atherton took the lead on seven minutes. Mark Battersby collected a long ball sent across the field to him. A pinpoint cross was curled around the blues defence by Battersby for Brad Cooke to head home at the far post, unmarked. Minutes later and the Collieries could have made it two. The ferociously fast Jordan Cover ran through on goal, one-on-one with the Irlam stopper. Cover’s low and hard shot was sent wide by a good save however. Despite the end to end nature of the game, this period was probably Colls best – they knocked the ball around with confidence and Irlam simply couldn’t offer a response. That was until the 16th minute, Irlam grew in confidence and Goalkeeper Adam Reid was forced into a good save. From Reid’s resulting kick Atherton mounted a counter attack. Good link up play between Battersby and Cover saw the two evade the Irlam defence. As they approached the opposition’s goal, the Blues’ defence scrambled back, with the ball eventually being poked behind for a corner. A couple of half chances for the black and whites came and went as they struggled to create real substantial efforts on goal. This was very nearly punished on 39 minutes. Irlam’s Isaac Illidge collected the ball on the edge of the area with his back at goal. As the ball rolled into his feet, he scooped both it and his body around and released a fine shot on goal. Luckily, Reid was alert to this and jumped across goal to make a fine save. With minutes to go until the break, the black and whites’ Ben Hardcastle (who had a superb game) pelted down the left wing. As he worked his way into a crossing positon, he looked up to find only Cover in the area, one Irlam defender in his way. Unfortunately, Hardcaslte’s cross met the head of the sole defender. Half Time – Irlam 0-1 Atherton Collieries There was a sense that the Colls would have to keep working to secure the three points as Irlam’ fighting spirit was relentless, despite the number of chances produced by Atherton. The first of those many chances came 60 seconds into the second period, Battersby could only head into the ground, instead of the goal, from a fine Hardcastle cross. Evidently, he was annoyed at missing a clear opportunity. It would seem Gaz Peet has found a new home in the left back position. The attack minded full back has consistently put in fine performances, protecting his own left flank and creating problems for his counterparts. This was no different on what was a brisk Friday evening. Peet made his way down the left flank and drilled the ball across the ground into the Irlam danger zone. Battersby went for the ball, only to miss after pressure from the back four, but no fear as the pass tickled its way to Dave Sherlock on the edge. The midfielder’s shot, however, was drilled just wide of the mark. One thing that has hindered progress for the Colls this season is what can be classed as ‘silly free-kicks’. On 60 minutes the black and whites gave one away in a prime location, four yards from the edge, just right to the centre of the goal. Luckily, Boland’s curled effort deflected straight back at him off the wall. Clegg’s disappointment in not being able to put chances away was clear. Atherton produced, and wasted, two chances in two minutes. On the edge of the Irlam area, Peet robbed the Blues of possession; Cover picked the loose ball up and, using his pace, evaded the Irlam defence to move clear on goal. The forward decided to poke the ball in the bottom right hand corner; this looked to be a superb decision as all watched it bounce towards the net. Unfortunately, Irlam’s Lee White somehow managed to scramble across goal and claw the ball away. The second chance came as a result of a defensive error from the home side. On the right flank of the field, the left back decided to pass the ball back to White. This pass was tame to say the least and jumped upon by Hardcaslte who almost predicted what was about to happen. As White dashed back to his goal Hardcastle passed across to the advancing Cover. Luck was not on Colls’ side that evening as the ball tickled past Cover, only millimetres from making connection. Due to a mixture of frustration and Irlam’s quality the Collieries struggled towards the end of the game. The home side saw numerous chances on goal. Some flew over the bar, some bounced against it. Either way, the Blues eventually levelled on 86 minutes. In exactly the same position as earlier, another free-kick was conceded. Though this time Irlam had learned from their mistakes as Rick Peters drilled the ball into goal. Full Time – Irlam 1-1 Atherton Collieries At the time this felt like a defeat, but the conclusion can be made that this was a good point; it is for certain that teams will go to Silver Street this season and come away with less. The Collieries used this game to tech themselves a lesson, form has now picked up and chances are being taken, and taken well. The Colls are back!

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