Rob Sadler has written a piece on behalf of everybody at the club, reflecting on the weekend's trip to Cleethorpes and just what it means to us all. Beautifully put.
"Monday 3rd February 2014. Probably not a day that will live long in the memory of any Atherton Collieries fan. Goals from Daryl Patton and Mitch Leece secured a 2-0 win against tenants Oldham Boro in front of 64 people; three points that added to the tally resulting in a respectable 5th place in the First Division of the NWCFL.
Three years later the same club were 2-0 up away from home and on the brink of a last 8 place in a national competition. 24 hours ago I couldn’t have even spoken those words let alone typed them. Yes, we all know the outcome, and yes, we know that 2-0 lead now counts for nothing as we crashed out of the cup in the most painful way possible. However, after having had time to sit down and reflect on the events it's evident that it does matter.
The scenes behind the goal when Gareth Peet smashed the ball home after a fine footballing move, which included a ridiculous piece of skill from Mark Battersby should live long in the memory of everyone associated with the football club. Irrelevant of the result and the manner in which it came, moments like that do not come around very often.
Like our captain, Brad Cooke said, “It’s the belief that kills you”. The belief recording a 2-0 victory away to a team 10 points clear in their equivalent league while boasting a home record that can’t be matched in any other league generated the kind of high you couldn’t imagine. I'm sure any of the 64 in attendance at Oldham Boro back in February 2014 would never have dreamed of it.
But the thing about the FA Vase is just that, it’s a dream.
A dream that as each difficult away draw is overcome becomes more and more of a reality. But the reality is you can be as close as you ever deem possible to something but until you have two firm hands on it, it can be tragically snatched from your grasp.
What can never be taken anyway from the club, the management and the fans is that day at Shildon and those celebrations on Saturday. The obvious dejection and devastation over the last few days amongst the squad has been eased by images and stories of the supporters on Saturday at Cleethorpes. The part the fans have played in this journey hasn’t been underestimated by one single player or member of the management team.
On Saturday, our 22 year old goalkeeper playing in, probably the biggest game of his life, was greeted by a rousing chorus of “Reidy Reidy” as he made his way to the nets. That just does not happen at the ninth level of English football. The atmosphere and vocal support of those 200+ fans, who set off from Atherton in cars and coaches at 10am, and arrived home at 9 is incredible.
The management team and every player in the squad has spoken at length about the support we have had along the way. It is truly mind blowing to think so many people have dedicated their Saturday afternoons to travel that far from home to watch us play. We were heart-broken that we couldn’t deliver the result and I’m not too proud to say I was one of the many in the squad who held back the tears as each and every one of the army that travelled stayed to clap us off the pitch. I’m just glad my Mrs wasn’t amongst them as I didn’t even cry on my wedding day!
We now turn our attention back to the league and we have '16 Cup Finals' to look forward to. The next month for the club is massive with a packed list of fixtures including showdowns with 3 of the top 4 in Bootle, 1874 Northwich and Runcorn Town. We know every match in this league is very difficult but those fixtures stand out and have really got all of the lads buzzing. Our league form has been exceptional so far but in order to gain promotion we know there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.
The same backing and support from the fans will be a massive lift along the way. You need to continue to be our twelfth man.
The progress this football club has made in such a short space of time is incredible and to gain 2 promotions in 3 years would be an unbelievable achievement. We hope the fans who have been supporting us for years continue to get behind the lads and we all look forward to seeing the new faces who enjoyed the FA Vase journey stick around and back us for the remainder of the season.