Result: Atherton Collieries 5-3 Daisy Hill (North West Counties First Division)
Venue: Alder House (Friday 10th October 2014, 7.45pm)
Friday night is usually a quiet night for me, football wise, mostly spent preparing for a trip the following day to a far flung place (like Runcorn…). But, this evening was to be different as the North West Counties had scheduled Atherton Collieries to entertain near neighbours Daisy Hill in a rare start of the weekend meeting.
Having paid my £4-odd train fare to get to Atherton from Manchester, I had to transit via Salford Crescent on my way to the west of the city. I arrived at just after 7pm, and made my way along the, now darkened, streets of the chilly town and onwards towards the floodlights and latterly music signalling the location of Alder House, Colls home.
I arrived at the ground at a little before half past the hour, and found the turnstiles tucked away, slightly innocuously, down the side of the “Formby Club” social bar. After parting with my £5 for entry, plus £1.50 for the more than decent programme, “The Carbon”, I made my way through the ‘stile.
Alder House opened up in front of me, bringing back good memories of a trip no less than six years earlier when, as a fan, I watched Trafford visit there just after securing the title. Sadly, that connection has dissipated recently but, nonetheless, I was here in my new guise and looking forward to “manchopping” my way through English football. Stop sniggering at the back, please, children.
Alder House itself is quite a quaint ground which mixes the old with the new. The old being the stands, which have stood for a fair while, the new(er) being the smart clubhouse building. Behind the goal which you enter alongside, are the changing rooms, a suite which looks more like a toilet block when shut(!), and a bright light which must be off putting for the goalkeepers down at the opposite end, which is open, hard standing, with just a large net with flags hanging from it to prevent balls from disappearing into oblivion. The small tea hut stands to the left of the clubhouse. These are directly facing you as you walk in, on the far side of the pitch. To the right of these is a small seated stand, with the opposite side being populated by a larger seated stand and a small amount of terracing. I think there was another terraced stand there when I last visited, but I can’t be sure…
The pitch looked in good condition, as the sides made their entrance into the field of play. But before we start the story of the game, the spectre of history looms large in the mirror…
Atherton Collieries FC was established in 1916 by members of the six old pits in the Atherton area. Between 1919 and 1965, the club lifted the Bolton Combination League title no less than ten times and, by 1965, had won the Lancashire Junior Cup six times. This record still stands. Other early silverware arrived in the form of two Wigan Cups, coming in 1925 & 1939.
Between two spells in the Bolton Combination, the club spent two seasons in the Lancashire Combination Division 2. In 1971, they switched back to the Lancashire Combination before becoming founder members of the Cheshire League Division 2, on its formation in 1978, before going on to co-found the North West Counties League in 1982, winning the 3rd Division inn 1986-’87. They also won the 1986 Bridge Shield during this period.
After floodlights were installed in 1994, the club continued to progress on the field and ended up being promoted from Division 2, as runners-up, in 1996.
2001-’02 saw Colls reach the NWCFL League Cup Final, where they lost out to Prescot Cables, but made up for this disappointment by defeating Charnock Richard to win the Goldline Trophy at the Reebok. The following season, they once again reached the final of the latter competition, but this time had to settle for the runners-up spot. 2006-’07 saw the club attain its best finish to date, seventh, in Division One (Now Premier). The highlight of this season was a 3-0 win over FC United, via an Anthony Pilkington hat-trick, before the youngster went on to join Stockport County and, of course, eventually Norwich City.
2008-’09 saw Colls suffer relegation to the “new” Division One, after twelve seasons in the top flight of the league, where they remain. They have added to their trophy cabinet during this time, defeating AFC Liverpool 3-2 aet, in the First Division Trophy at Flixton. 2012 saw the club lift the wonderfully named “Bolton Hospitals Cup” within the glamorous surroundings of the Reebok Stadium, after a penalty shootout win over local side Eagley.
10x Bolton Combination Titles (between 1919-’20 & 1964-’65)
6x Lancashire County Shields (between 1919-’20 & 1964-’65)
2x Wigan Cups (1924-’25 & 1938-’39)
1x Bridge Shield (1985-’86)
1x Goldline Trophy (2001-’02)
3x Bolton Hospitals Cups (1973-’74, 1986-’87 & 2011-’12)
1x North West Counties 1st Division Trophy (2010-’11)
North West Counties Division 2 Runners-Up (promoted) (1995-’96)
Back onto tonight’s game then, and after initially uncovering the whereabouts of “Football’s Premier Utensil” the Football Spoon, and later joined by Dan Watkinson and fleetingly by Colls’ most famous off-field personality Joe Gibbons & Stew from Non-League Review, as it seemed everyone from the non-league scene who counted and me were in attendance. The game began and it was unbeaten in the league Colls who began the brighter, and it was little surprise when they took the lead early on through winger Mark Truffas’ half-volley. But, after this goal, Colls seemed to lose their early dynamic play and gave away a spot-kick just before the break. Daisy Hill’s Jordan Hussey stepped up, and planted his effort past the Colls ‘keeper, who got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out. The dramatics hadn’t finished though, as Colls rushed down the other end and won their own penalty, and it was stonewall. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Mark Battersby comfortably struck the ball into the right hand corner to restore his side’s advantage heading into half-time.
Half-Time consisted of me queuing up for a pie and setting up the initial meeting of Spoon and NLR (an historic moment) and got my pie after 15 minutes, just after the game had got back underway. I am pleased to report that the wait was very worthwhile, as the pie was top-notch, as was the service.
Just as I arrived back pitch side, Colls extended their lead through Kris Holt’s stooping close range header, before Jake Foster pulled one back on the hour with a rasping effort from a free-kick, which flew in off the underside of the bar. It was a cracking strike, curled over the bar with the ‘keeper rooted. The game continued to be end-to-end, and Colls, clearly upset by doubling their league season’s goals conceded tally in one game, missed a number of great chances to put the game to bed. But, on 84 minutes, they appeared to have done so as Truffas netted his second of the game. People may have been forgiven to dodge the match day traffic (there was 607 officially in attendance) but these ideas were soon put back to bed as Daisy Hill once again gave themselves some hope through Michael Gervin’s strike.
After half chances for Daisy who were pushing all and sundry forwards, Colls added a fifth deep into added time, when Battersby joined Truffas on a brace, tucking a pinpoint effort into the far corner. 5-3, game over. A great advert for Counties football, in front of a great turn out on the night.
After the game, I joined West Didsbury’s Rob McKay, his girlfriend and a workmate of his who’s name escapes me (I’m awful with names on a first meeting), and went into the close-by hostelry, the Rope & Anchor, with its, alternative & occasional live music. After a couple of Desperados(for me) in there, it was onwards home, via a few references to Rob being around or inside The Cock, due to another nearby (ish) pub. Childish!
*Thanks for the lift back!*
My Atherton Collieries M.o.M.- Mark Truffas
My Daisy Hill M.o.M.- Jake Foster
Game: 10- Eight goals, many more chances. Can’t go wrong.
Ground: 7- Tidy ground, with character to it. Nice clubhouse also.
Programme: 10- Just on the basis of effort put in to publish original pieces. Good job.
Fans: 8- Friendly bunch, who are, quite quietly, supportive of their side. Though, scoring at over 3 a game, they don’t need a lot of encouragement!
Food: 9- Pie was very good, and for £1.50, it was well worth the wait!
Value For Money: Everything, including travel for £12. Not bad at all is it. Eight goal return too.
Referee: 9- Had a really good game, controlled it well. Both pens spot on, and no major mistakes, imo.