Report: Market Drayton 0-2 Colls

A goal in each half from James Kirby and Ben Hardcastle saw Micheal Clegg’s Atherton Collieries extend their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik League Division One West table to four points. With second-placed Radcliffe not in action, Clegg’s black and whites took full advantage of the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s first versus second clash at the Skuna Stadium, although they didn’t necessarily have everything their way in this encounter. With the original fixture away to Market Drayton postponed ten days ago, Colls went in to the game with a fortnight’s rest behind them, with Micheal Clegg making two changes to the side that defeated Leek Town 2-1 as Oliver Roberts and James Kirby came in to the side to replace Dave Sherlock and Jordan Cover respectively. Although the hosts went in to the game in sixteenth position, the visiting contingent travelled south fully in the knowledge that the Shropshire outfit ran out 2-1 victors at the Skuna Stadium earlier in the season, and it was certainly an even - if somewhat frantic - contest throughout the first half, though Tom Bentham did force a smart save from Ashley Rawlins on 14 minutes as the home stopper flicked Bentham’s curling effort just over the bar. As the half wore on, Colls started to take the attacking initiative as lovely link up play between Bentham and Connor Hughes saw the latter curl an effort just past the far post on 31 minutes before James Kirby straight at Rawlins a minute later after Peet had sat a cross on to the far post. It was in stoppage time at the end of the first half that Colls went in front, with the ever dangerous Peet winning a free kick on the left hand edge of the area. Peet’s delivery was headed against his own crossbar by Jordan Davies and, as the hosts struggled to clear their lines, the ball broke to Kirby who drove a low effort past Rawlins and inside the far post. Only three minutes of the second half had passed before Colls went within a whisker of extending their lead, Hughes cutting inside from the left flank and flashing an effort narrowly past the far post. It took until the hour mark before the hosts managed a serious effort on goal, centre back Tyrell McFarlane doing well to flick the ball up for himself but finding Greg Hartley more than equal to his half-volley. Peet saw a 30 yard free kick well saved before Hardcastle went close on 80 minutes, showing the twinkling feet that would serve him well a few minutes later, evading a couple of challenges before sending a half-volley arrowing just over the bar. Any frustration on the part of Hardcastle on the occasion of his 250th Colls appearance was to prove short-lived as he grabbed the vital second goal of the evening to clinch all three points on 84 minutes, again showing quick feet to create enough space to create an opening and fire past Rawlins and ensure a happy journey home for the visiting faithful. As the season's conclusion heads ever nearer, needless to say the big games keep on coming for Colls, but this Saturday (30th March, 3pm) is arguably one of the most important games in the club's history as second-placed Radcliffe make the short journey to the Skuna Stadium in an encounter that could have huge ramifications on the Evo-Stik League Division One West title race. A bumper crowd is expected, with admission costing £7 for adults, £4 for over 65's & students and £2 for under 16's, with under 12 year olds admitted free of charge with a paying adult. Atherton Collieries: Greg Hartley, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Oliver Roberts, Daniel Lafferty © (Dave Sherlock 90+3’), Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey (Daniel Lambert 77’), James Kirby (Matt Grimshaw 87’), Tom Bentham, Connor Hughes. Substitutes (not used): Jordan Cover, Chris Cheetham Goals: James Kirby (45+2'), Ben Hardcastle (84') Twinshock Colls Mon IPA Man of the Match: James Kirby Attendance: 126 Match Report: Matt Lawton Photograph: David Featherstone

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