Result: Atherton Collieries 1-2 Kidsgrove Athletic (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round)
Venue: Alder House (Saturday 8th September 2018, 3pm)
After a pair of long trips down to Devon over the previous couple of weekends, it was a definite welcome change to only be faced with the short hop over to Atherton and Atherton Collieries for their FA Cup tie against league rivals, the strong starting Staffordshire outfit, Kidsgrove Athletic. It would be my third visit to Alder House, though my first on a Saturday for just over a decade, the last being when they put an end to 2007-’08 NWCFL champions Trafford’s long winning run. They pipped Salford that year, too. How things change….!
Anyway, enough about the past, let’s get back onto the day at hand. It was a damp and dreary day in Manchester as I caught bus out to the Trafford Centre where I’d catch another to take me the further half-hour or so to the town betwixt Wigan and Leigh. It did appear that Atherton, Tyldesley and other places en route weren’t exactly the place to be today, though, as I was the only passenger for a good twenty minutes! Eventually, I would be joined by a few elder states persons of the area prior to finally disembarking at the far end of Atherton’s Market Street, where I was to find two pubs facing off across a junction. These were, namely, the Punch Bowl and the Letters Inn. Only one had its doors open as the clock ticked on past midday, so in I headed to find the barman/landlord stocking the bar. Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t clocked my arrival, and so almost had a heart attack when he looked up to find me looming at the bar! I gave him £2.85 for a San Miguel as an apology!
The Punch Bowl slowly filled up as I sat there for the first half-hour of the day, as I wasted a bit of time to ensure the next place along would likely be ready to go. Eventually, I reckoned it would be safe to assume it was and so headed on over the way to the aforementioned Letters. Indeed, it was open and, yet again, I was the first punter in. Proper pisshead action going on here and I just hope it doesn’t become too much of a habit! The landlord here, like the first, bemoaned the change in the weather, and it certainly was a return to the norm as it began to bucket down as I looked out of the window and thoughts of the dreaded late postponement came to mind. But, I had great faith in the Colls team to have everything in line. I hoped….
Invited to sit and read the paper on the bar whilst supping at my Boddies (£2.40), a lady entered and seemed half disappointed to have been beaten to the post in terms of being first in, so I agreed to stay quiet in that regard when the remainder of her group came in! The ruse was soon abandoned though and I was soon heading onwards back down the street towards the ground a little more, finding myself at the next stop, the Taphouse 119. Shock of shocks, I was the only one in yet again, and after initially opting for a pint of one of the Rosie cider group, I spotted just in time it was a 7.4%, so decided to be sensible for once and instead opted for the far weaker one at a tick over 4%. A nice pint too, but I soon got the urge to go and watch some of the cricket in what seemed to be a fairly recently opened sports bar across the way, by the name of the Sin Bin. Unfortunately, the fact it was coming up to 1pm had completely slipped me by, and about a minute after taking a seat at the window, the players headed off for lunch. Ah.
Atherton is a town located within the Borough of Wigan and is historically a coal mining and nail manufacturing town, dating back to the 14th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town was described as “the centre of a district of collieries, cotton mills and iron-works, which cover the surface of the country with their inartistic buildings and surroundings, and are linked together by the equally unlovely dwellings of the people”. A nice description, then! The town’s last deep coal mine closed in 1966, the final cotton mills in 1999. Sadly, as in many places, a mining accident at Lover’s Lane took the lives of 27 men in 1872, with a further eight being lost in Chanters Colliery in 1957.
Evidence has been found of Bronxe age activity, as well as a Roman road passing through the area on the ancient route between Coccium (Wigan and Mamcium (Manchester). Following the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the country, Atherton became a part of the manor of Warrington through to the Norman conquest when it became a township (or vill) in its own right, as part of the parish of Leigh. Recorded as Aderton in 1212, it seemingly became Atherton around 1259, named after either the nearby brooks, or a manor house. For a while, the town took on the name of a part of the township, Chow’s Bent, named after the Chow family who lived in the area. Becoming Chollebynt (or Shollebent) in the 14th century, this would later become Chowbent, the name sticking until the mid-17th century, when it reverted back to Atherton once more. The area also saw two battles, one in each of the Civil War and Jacobite uprising, the area having been split in loyalty during the former, the latter seeing the Scottish forces routed. Latterly, it has been part of the county of Lancashire, before being incorporated into Greater Manchester in line with its borough, Wigan.
I was instead left to watch the rain continue to fall over a pint of the fine Marston’s 61 Deep and to become a part-time staff member for around ten seconds in helping to open a door to allow stock across the way. Soon enough and with the clock now ticking ever closer to 2pm, I thought it smart to continue onwards to the Atherton Arms, a short walk from the ground. This was a Holt’s’ affair and, as such, it allowed me to have a pint of the fine Bootleg IPA and to pay one of Holt’s’ ever interesting pricing methods, the £2.66 helping to rid me of a few coppers. Be gone 1p’s.
Aside from a small group of Kidsgrove fans and a couple of locals, it seemed there wasn’t many locals braving the rain to enjoy a pint out in Atherton today and so, after actually getting to watch some cricket, I swiftly finished up and turned just around the corner to reach Alder House. On arrival, I handed over my £8 entry, plus a further £2 for the very decent programme. From there, I took some shelter in the clubhouse for the lead-up to the game, meeting up with a few of the Colls group, namely Gibbo, Rob and Zach. Gibbo was testing out the new craft ale suppliers (and now stadium name rights holders) Skuna, but I didn’t test it out myself, thinking it best to play out the long game. A half-time pie would do for now!
The sides were soon entering the pitch and so it was onwards outside into what had now, thankfully, reduced to just drizzle. Alder House is a ground that is getting smarter by the year, it seems. It hasn’t changed much layout wise since my first visit way back when, but at least the roof of the stand near the turnstiles isn’t in danger of blowing off now! This all-seater stand sits towards the near-end goal, between the turnstile area and half-way. There is a strangely-located bit of terracing directly next to it, though this doesn’t give particularly great views what with the dugouts being directly in front of it. Both ends are open, hard standing, (though the near end does host the dressing rooms etc., with another stand being located towards the far-end goal on the far, clubhouse side of the ground. Slightly split in the middle, this is a mix of seating and standing, with a little area of uncovered standing protruding out back towards the clubhouse and food bar. So that’s Alder House in a nutshell and this is the story of Atherton Collieries….
Atherton Collieries Football Club was founded in 1916 by miners from the six pits in the old urban area of the town. The club was created with the aim of becoming a welfare point for those left at home during the First World War and upon the pits being nationalised later on, the club was gifted to the people of Atherton instead. The club has played at Alder House since its formation and the club would initially join the Bolton Combination post-war, winning the title in 1920, alongside the Lancashire County FA Amateur Shield, the latter of which was lifted again in 1923, when the club were then playing in the Lancashire Alliance (joined in 1921).
After returning to the Bolton Combination and winning three consecutive titles between 1937-’39, the Second World War broke out, but Colls would remain in the Combination throughout the wartime period, winning two further Combination titles in 1941 & ’45, whilst also achieving a third County FA Shield in 1942. Post-war, the club joined the Manchester League, West Lancashire League & Lancashire Combination’s Division 2 for shorts spells, a further Shield being won in 1946, ahead of a return to the Bolton Combination in 1952. The few switches in leagues resulted in a slight lean spell, which saw it be over a decade until their next triumphs, these coming in the form of a Combination/Shield double in 1957. The club would eventually end their Combination stay with ten titles, adding a final three in 1959, ’61 and ’65, with one more Shield being achieved in 1965, with Colls then returning to the Lancashire Combination in 1971 and winning their first Bolton Hospitals Cup in 1974.
After an unsuccessful foray in the Lancashire Combination, Atherton would move into the Cheshire County League for 1977-’78 before the merger in 1982 meant Colls would join the newly-formed North West Counties League. Their first silverware in this period arriving in 1986 in the form of the Bridge Shield, just ahead of their second Bolton Hospitals Cup a year later. League success would soon follow, the Third Division title being won in 1987 along with promotion to Division 2. After narrowly missing out on Cup silverware in each of 1992, 1995 & 1996 (beaten finalists in the NWCFL First Division Trophy, Floodlit Trophy & Division Two Trophy respectively), the club were promoted at the end of the latter of those three campaigns, this being enough to ensure promotion to the Division One. 2002 saw Colls lift the Goldline Trophy at Bolton Wanderers’ ground, ahead of the renaming of Division One to the Premier Division in 2008, which proved an unlucky change for Colls, the club being relegated at the end of that season.
The relegation meant the club were playing in Division One, where they were an ever-present force towards the top of the table, consistently finishing in the top six, whilst also lifting the First Division Trophy in 2011. Promotion would follow in 2015, Colls winning the Division and thus being promoted back to the Premier Division, along with taking a third Bolton Hospitals Cup, however, they did go on to lose out in the 2015 NWCFL Challenge Cup Final, but would go one better the following campaign, lifting the trophy via a 5-1 thrashing of Colne. This would prove to be a sign of things to come, as the 2016-’17 season would end in Colls’ first ever promotion to the Northern Premier League, where they were placed in the Division One North. Their first season was immediately successful, the club finishing up a more than solid 10th, whilst grabbing further silverware in the form of the NPL Challenge Cup, after a 2-1 triumph over Coalville Town.
Now, I have to make an apology here. Unfortunately, my phone gave up on me over the weekend and so I lost my nots pertaining to this game, so am having to use the bits and bobs I can find from match reports and the like. As such, things may be skewed a little, but there we are. Whatever the case, the pitch was in fine nick come kick-off it seemed and the first chance duly fell to the hosts, Gaz Peet seeing his free-kick from a fair way out clip the top of the crossbar on its way over.
The remaining half-hour of the first-half was fairly uneventful, with both sides trading half-chances only, Jordan Cover firing wide, before later testing the Kidsgrove ‘keeper, sandwiching Peter Williams’ effort which forced the crackingly named Morgan Bacon into a stop. That was largely that for the first half, the hosts seeing marginally the better of the play. Meanwhile, it was off to the food hut for me, where I opted for the pie, peas and gravy, which was superb. But, then again, we are in pie country, so would you expect anything less?!
After a quick check on the half-time scores, the second half was underway and I decided I couldn’t really be too arsed doing another lap, so camped out in front of the clubhouse where I joined Gibbo and his partner Hannah, though I probably annoyed the latter somewhat with my incessant and, quite likely, nonsensical chatter, so you have my apologies for that. Further apologies notwithstanding, that should be the last time I have to offer up any during this blog I hope!
Kidsgrove got straight into action and took the lead just a few minutes into the half, when a loose ball allowed them to take on possession and Lee Williamson advanced into the area before clipping the ball over Bacon and into the net, to the cheers of the decently sized travelling support from North Staffordshire (and wherever else they may reside, I suppose). This really seemed to drive on Athletic from there on in and they largely dominated proceedings for the next twenty minutes or so, and doubled their advantage during this time. However, it was to be a highly controversial goal.
Kidsgrove advanced down the flank and the resultant delivery was headed goal-wards by Shayne Rhodes, whereupon it hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down and back into the grateful hands of Bacon, who’d seemingly tipped it onto the woodwork to safety. No flag, no goal, so it seemed. But, no! The referee began to signal back to the centre-spot and awarded the visitors a contentious second, much to the dismay and disbelief of the home support, players and officials alike, so much so that it ended up with Colls boss Michael Clegg being dismissed from the dugout. I have to say, it didn’t look as though it had crossed the line from my position and the initial players’ reactions, but being down the other side of the field, I couldn’t say for certain, of course.
Either way, Kidsgrove should have had another goal shortly afterwards, when Williamson was brought down in the area and the referee had the far more obvious task this time round of pointing to the spot. Penalty. But, Bacon was on sizzling form (sorry!) to palm away Anthony Malbon’s spot-kick and keep Colls’ hopes alive, just about. The game would begin to get a bit bad-tempered from here, with a few rash challenges and flare-ups coming and going, before the hosts grabbed a late, stoppage-time goal back, when Luke Giverin fired home, but a good bit of “gamesmanship” from one of the Athletic players in the goal-mouth ensured any possible sting was taken out of the moment. Clever stuff.
That would be that, however, and it was too little too late for the home side, who bowed out to a Kidsgrove side who, over the 90 minutes, probably edged the game on the whole, with 2-1 being a fair reflection of the game. As for me, I beat a hast exit to beat the crowds who would be setting off to drown their sorrows in the nearby Rope & Anchor, where I opted to end off my trip with a final pint of Boddington’s (£2.50), whilst watching the scores roll in from around the country. Before long, it was time to head back on the short walk back towards the town centre once again, where I missed my bus back on account of the driver having not changed the destination on the front, so I didn’t go for it. Great. At least it was only about 15 minutes to the next one though, but, with no phone battery left to play with, ’twas a long quarter-hour. Honestly, what did we do without them?! Ah, papers and programmes. Of course!
After getting back to Bolton, it turned out the express service back to the Trafford Centre was cancelled due to an accident on the motorway somewhere, which meant only one absolutely delightful option. The long way round, a whole 1 hour and five minutes of a bus trip with no music and the like to block out the incessant chat of nonsense (says me!). Thankfully, it did seem to go rather quick somehow – probably due to the bloody long trips down South – and I was back home within 20 minutes of arriving back at the TC. Once there, it was off to our bar once again for a final couple…or three….ok, five, whilst Trafford fan and occasional blog appearance maker, Cappy, popped in to celebrate the Whites’ win up at the Giant Axe in Lancaster via a couple of Jägers each.
Yes, it was one of those days, but it had been good, for sure! The game was decent, the ground too, programme and food all good and the town was cheap as chips (considering I’d spent £11 on a bottle of Sol and a pint of Tiny Rebel ale last week!). Can’t complain much and it’s back to the same neck of the woods next week, when I pay a second visit to New Sirs and Daisy Hill FC, the first time I’ll have been since the first post “Class of 92” takeover game. Salford have somewhat bookended this blog, and I have now ended it….
Value For Money: 8