The Colls climb up the Northern Premier League table continued against Stafford Rangers, courtesy of a comprehensive 3-0 away win. After a wait of 227 days since the originally scheduled fixture, the Colls walked victorious courtesy of goals from Dylan Glass, Rick Smith and Elliot Rokka. The game started with controversy. Danny Taberner slipped by the edge of the box, to be accused of handball during his landing by a vocal number of the home faithful. However, the well-placed referee and linesman both agreed that no discrepancy occurred and play continued uninterrupted, a correct decision by the match officials.
After a fairly even start, the Colls began to create the first chances of the game, sustaining pressure through Marcus Cusani and Gaz Peet breaking multiple times down the left flank, whilst Danny Lambert worked hard to win the ball in midfield and nullify the home threat.
Indeed, it was Marcus Cusani who created the first goal of the game. Breaking down the right wing from midfield, Marcus took the ball into the final third before playing to Elliot Rokka, who sent a troubling cross into the "corridor of uncertainty", where Dylan Glass tapped the ball home.
The goal put the game truly under the control of Brad Cooke's men, and chances began to flow thick and fast. Moments after play restarted, Ben Conway, on his 70th appearance for the Black & Whites, broke one-on-one against the Stafford keeper, who blocked well what could've been a dangerous opportunity. Shortly after this, the ball was in the back of the net once again, though Danny Lafferty had a second disallowed goal in four days after heading home from a free-kick.
Another clear chance fell to the Colls in the dying moments of the first half, as Elliot Rokka was the next to go one-on-one against the Stafford stopper, though with limited options available the chance was again nullified by the home keeper.
The lead was doubled with the final kick of the half. The Colls picked up a free-kick outside of the box, and Elliot Rokka assumed responsibility. A powerful free-kick was drilled into the wall, where it took a small deflection en-route to finding it's way home for a second goal.
Brad Cooke's Greens entered half-time in full control of the game and good value for the lead, and this continued into the second half.
As Colls pushed for a third throughout the second half, we were gifted an additional advantage courtesy of two fouls from forward Joe Cuff. Cuff received a first yellow for a mistimed tackle on Danny Taberner after chasing to win a long ball forward, and just four minutes later received a second yellow card for an identical second dangerous foul on the Colls stopper, correctly receiving his marching orders as a result.
Whilst the home faithful were still incensed by the decision, the Colls kept their cool and sealed the win. Vinny Bailey floated a perfect cross into the box from a free-kick, for Rick Smith to head home at the far post, sending the sold-out Marston Road away end into raptures.
As the game entered injury time, Stafford finally began to put pressure on Colls in the final third, though it was too little too late, as Colls were able to see the game out with ease. There was a final chance for the lads in Green through late substitute Jack Banister, who cut inside with a fantastic nutmeg before squaring the ball to fellow sub Jordan Darr, who cheekily flicked the ball goalwards to be caught with ease by the Stafford stopper.
The Colls are back in action this Saturday afternoon, as we welcome City of Liverpool to the Skuna Stadium in the FA Trophy. Match ticket details will be confirmed on our club website and social media over coming days. Atherton Collieries: Danny Taberner, Clive Smith, Gaz Peet, Danny Lambert, Danny Lafferty, Rick Smith, Ben Conway (Jack Lenehan '71), Vinny Bailey, Dylan Glass (Jordan Darr '74), Elliot Rokka (Jack Banister '81), Marcus Cusani. Substitutes (not used): Elliot Wynne, Niall Battersby
Goals: Dylan Glass (29'), Elliot Rokka (45'), Rick Smith (72')
Man of the Match: Danny Lambert, sponsored by Shine Genie Attendance: 457
Report: Rob Clarke
Photograph: David Featherstone