Lancaster City 1 v 0 Atherton Collieries (Bet Victor Northern Premier League)
Atherton Collieries arrived at the Giant Axe on Bank Holiday Monday to face Lancaster City in the Bet Victor Northern Premier League fixture, which was the first competitive match between the two sides in thirty-three years. The last meeting was in the FA Vase back in 1986, which the Dolly Blues went on to win 1-0.
On a hot and sunny bank holiday it was the visitors that started the stronger and after just three minutes, Ben Conway beat centre back Luke Thompson to the ball before curling an effort narrowly wide of Sam Ashton’s right-hand post. Both sides played some excellent football with good one and two touch football, but they struggled to find the final ball or shot on target.
On twelve minutes, the home side went close to taking the lead when Sam Bailey hit a powerful free-kick towards the top corner of the Atherton goal until Theo Roberts tipped the ball over the crossbar. From the resulting corner a David Norris header was well save by Roberts before the ball was cleared to safety.
Three minutes later, the visitors should have opened the scoring as Tom Bentham flicked the ball on to Ben Hardcastle in the Lancaster area. However under pressure, Hardcastle shot at goal and looked to have scored but for a last ditch tackle on the goalline.
Lancaster City were now dominating the game and created two excellent chance in a minute, the first on twenty-one minutes was an incredible long range shot from Sam Bailey which forced a fine save from Theo Roberts. The second a minute later former Leeds United striker David Norris side footed an effort wide of Roberts right hand post.
The Dolly Blues continued to press for the rest of the first-half with the visitors creating very little, as the half-time wistle approached the home side appealled for a penalty as shout of handball echoed around the Shed End of the ground however the referee wave play on to leave the half-time score 0-0.
At the start of the second-half, Atherton appeared to have a little more confidence and were playing the ball around with more freedom and intent. Four minutes in to the half and Gareth Peet claimed for a penalty as he became involved in a physical battle with the City players but the refereee dismissed the appeal.
On sixty-one minutes, Ben Conway found himself free down the left wing before Lancaster City defender Simon Wills committed a cynical foul to halt the attack, which so the defender receive the yellow card.
Then sixteen minutes later, Lancaster City thought they had taken the lead when the ball hit the back of the net only for referee Raper ruled the goal out for what appeared to be a foul committed on a Atherton defender.
Collieries sensed they could snatch all three points and brought on Niall Battersby, Jordan Cover and Brad Lynch in attacking positions. A couple of half opportunities developed but Sam Ashton remained relatively unchallenged for the rest of the game.
As the board was raised to signal three minutes of stoppage time, Lancaster City launched a direct move and delivered a sucker punch. The ball was spread out to the left and a fairly innocuous cross was then looped into the area, making it’s way to the back post. where David Norris headed the ball past Theo Roberts to give City a 1-0 lead in the final minute.
Speaking after the match Lancaster City assistant manager Graham Lancashire said, “It was a much improved performance from the players following Saturdays disappointing 2nd half showing against Basford. We knew that with two games in three days that we would need everyone in the squad to play their part and the players that came in on Monday held their own and showed there is fierce competition for places.
We felt that we restricted Atherton to a couple of chances in the 1st half with our shape and work rate. We identified the dangers early on and managed to nullify those while still going forward and creating plenty of half chances ourselves. We thought that as the half went on we dominated possession and with a little bit of luck and quality we could have been 1 or 2 up by half time. We addressed a couple of things at half time and the players responded brilliantly and showed a work rate & performance that ultimately ended with a last minute winner.
Atherton will do well this year and have some excellent players that will win games for them and could walk into many teams in this division. Ultimately it showed that we have strong competition for places & players can dig in for as long as needed to get something out of matches.”
Lancaster City – Ashton, Fensome, Armer, Wills, Thompson, Steele, Blinkhorn, S.Bailey, Cowperthwaite, Norris, C.Bailey (Subs) Hudson, Dawson, Wilson, Idel, Walker
Atherton – T.Roberts, Smith, Peet, Sherlock, Lafferty, Rowlands, O.Roberts, Bailey, Bentham, Hardcastle, Conway (Subs) Battersby, Cover, Lynch, Egan, Kenny
Goals – (Lancaster City) Norris (90)
Attendance – 330