Stafford Rangers captain Ethan Stewart led firmly by example on Tuesday night, scoring both goals as Atherton Collieries were beaten 2-0 at the Stan Robinson Stadium.
The midweek meeting was one both sides would have been particularly targeting for a positive result, as it marked Stafford’s first under the management of Dave Cooke, whilst it was a chance for the Colls to leapfrog their opponents in the Northern Premier League table with a win.
And the high-stakes nature of the fixture was reflected in an end-to-end opening forty-five, as both sides committed bodies forward in pursuit of the opening goal, and crafted several decent opportunities.
Adam Dawson, Enock Lusiama and Nathan Caine all tested home ‘keeper Cameron Belford, whilst Stewart and wing-back Sam Bird saw efforts whistle past the post at the other end.
Stafford skipper Stewart would not make the same mistake twice, however, as he broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time after a corner eventually dropped perfectly at his feet inside the six-yard box.
Shortly after the break, the centre-back would double his account for the evening, showing the composure of a striker to lift the ball over Defreitas-Hansen for the game’s second goal.
The home side later introduced new signing and ex-Football League man A-Jay Leitch-Smith off the bench, and he was inches away from adding a third, but would see his classy effort from the edge of the area drift just over.
Josh Solomon-Davies then stung the palms of Belford in the closest the Colls came to mounting a late comeback, but the score would ultimately remain at 2-0 as referee David Hinton, who managed the game with an understated authority, brought things to a close.
Atherton Collieries are back on the road again for the next Northern Premier League fixture, as travel to take on Morpeth Town on Saturday.
Colls: Nico Defreitas-Hansen, Josh Solomon-Davies, Jack Evans, Dylan Moonan (77' Jordan Boon), Dylan Thompson, Jordan Fagbola, Adam Dawson, Sidi Fofana, Enock Lusiama, Harvey Gregson (61' Ben Rydel) & Nathan Caine
Man of the Match: Josh Solomon-Davies, sponsored by Neptune Wealth Management