- Plucky Atherton clinical in front of goal with two excellent first-half efforts
- Dabbers given a lifeline through James Lawrie’s long-range strike on the brink of half-time
- Late goal seals the victory for the hosts as stoic Collieries pick up all three points
A strong offensive performance from Nantwich Town was denied by a stoic effort by a plucky Atherton Collieries side at the Skuna Stadium. Vincent Bailey’s stunning effort was one of two goals for the midfielder as they won all three points in the BetVictor Northern Premier Division.
Bailey’s quick double put the Colls in front after twenty-five minutes, and they looked to be in cruise control towards the end of the first forty-five minutes, but James Lawrie’s goal on the stroke of the break gave Nantwich a lifeline going into the interval. A barrage of Nantwich attacks in the second half were well-defended by Atherton before Oli Roberts finished the job in stoppage time when the visitors were throwing the kitchen sink towards trying to find an equaliser.
Manager Dave Cooke was unchanged from Bank Holiday Monday’s win over Witton Albion, with no switches on the substitutes bench either. It was another outing in Nantwich’s new yellow change strip, with the hosts in their home black-and-white stripes.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to Atherton, as a move down the right side came to nothing as a ball across the box was taken by the wind, and the scores remained level.
The third minute saw Atherton earn a free-kick after a committed challenge from Caspar Hughes. A short drop-off to the Colls’ left-back Gareth Peet saw him fire well wide of the near post.
Nantwich’s first real opportunity of the afternoon came in the form of a tenth-minute free-kick from Joe Davis, but the dipped ball into the area was collected well by Atherton stopper Christopher Cheetham.
Cheetham could have been at fault for a Nantwich opener, as he rushed out wide to grab at a cross, but the Dabbers won the one-on-one battle; Matt Bell was unable to find the empty net however.
Despite Nantwich enjoying the majority of the play, it was Atherton who opened the scoring in the twenty-first minute. Some sloppy defending from the visitors allowed Colls’ midfielder Vincent Bailey to fire into the top-right corner from just outside the box, with goalkeeper Greg Hall having no chance to stop the effort.
Nantwich reacted well to going behind, as they gave Cheetham his first real test of the afternoon. Joe Mwasile turned off his man well, and he was able to hit one towards goal, but a super save from the stopper at point-blank range kept Atherton ahead.
A solid free-kick routine from Atherton may have seen them go two up as a flicked header beat keeper Greg Hall, but Josh Langley was able to head the ball off the line.
However, the Colls wouldn’t have to wait long before extending their lead. Bailey once again found space outside the box, as he curled a sensational effort past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Hall.
It would have been a mountain to climb for Nantwich had the Colls’ next effort found the net, as Hall was found off his line, but the keeper did well to get back to tip it round the post.
The thirty-third minute brought around a fairly bizzare moment, as the Atherton goalkeeper kit was switched from a dark green to a flourescent pink change strip.
The next ten minutes or so were absent of action, but on the forty-fifth minute, Matt Bell’s effort was deflected for a corner, which itself was blocked away to the edge of the area. Dropping to Lawrie, the midfielder struck one that was subject to a game of pinball in the six-yard box before finding the net.
That was to be the final action of the half, as the visitors were only a goal down at the interval.
Lawrie should have doubled his tally early in the second period, as his shot smacked off the bar despite some nice, yet tricky footwork in the box.
When the Colls were on the break, the Dabbers did well to force a corner from a two-on-one situation at the back. However, the set-piece came to nothing. Atherton had another corner just after the hour that was headed over the bar.
Both sides would make their first changes soon after, with the hosts replacing Niall Battersby and Kieran Feeney with Jack Egan and Ben Conway. The Dabbers would replace Matt Bell with Luke Walsh.
Sean Cooke should have equalised for the Dabbers with twenty minutes to go, as he drilled an effort towards the bottom corner, but it hit a lump in the pitch and trickled wide of the post.
Oli Roberts would replace substitute Jack Egan soon after the eighty-minute mark.
Cooke had another good low effort at goal, but it was saved well by Cheetham.
The hosts would add their third soon after the five-minute stoppage time was announced, as Oli Roberts slotted home on the break when the Dabbers were throwing all ten men forward in desperate pursuit of an equaliser.
Nantwich will look to return to winning ways on Tuesday evening, as they host Warrington Town at the Weaver Stadium for a 7.45pm kick-off. Tickets are priced at £11 for adults, £8 for concessions and £3 for U16s.
Atherton: Christopher Cheetham, Niall Battersby (Jack Egan 64′ (Oli Roberts 81′)), Gareth Peet, Clive Smith, Daniel Lafferty (C), Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle, Vincent Bailey, Tom Bentham, Kieran Feeney (Ben Conway 64′), David Sherlock
Subs not used: Brad Lynch, Joseph Slinn
Nantwich: Greg Hall, Caspar Hughes (C), Matty Devine, Joe Davis, Josh Langley, Ben Harrison, Joe Mwasile (Will Saxon 90′), Matt Bell (Luke Walsh 65′), Joe Malkin, Sean Cooke, James Lawrie
Subs not used: David Webb, Troy Bourne, Kallam Boyle
Referee: Mr D. Croft