Saturday, 3 September 2016

03/09/16 Review: Hanley Town vs Atherton Collieries

Hanley Town 1-4 Atherton Collieries (North West Counties Premier League)
Potteries Park

Saturday 3rd September 2016, aka NON LEAGUE DAY! Another day set aside in the Football Calendar for folk to head on down to their local ground and support the sides who desperately need every fan that walk through the turnstiles. With the hope that Liverpool fans would show up to see Cammell Laird 1907, the Hammers faithful would pop up at the Old Spotted Dog to see how Clapton are getting on and even the chance that Manchester United and City fans might go to Ashton's FA Cup Qualifier. My beloved Macclesfield Town were at home today but I decided to make the short journey to see how a rainy Potteries Park would fair as NW Counties Premier favourites Atherton Colls visited Hanley Town.

The fans were flooding in early doors
As with last year's Blog from Non-League Day, the big one between the Silkmen vs Kidderminster, I am going to start this entry with a fact-file including some Non-League info from my already very busy 2016/17 Season.

Best NL Ground Visited
Alongside Nantwich Town, there have been some stunning outings this season so far.

Worst NL Ground Visited
Sorry guys, but you stored your corner flags in the toilet.

Best NL Match
A Tuesday night delight over in the West Mids has been a highlight so far.

Worst NL Match
Aside from the overlooking views of the Peak District, my last outing offered little.

Most Friendly NL Ground Visited
A Silkmen pre-season match was enhanced by some good laughs with the folk in attendance.

Loudest fans
A visit to the Old Spotted Dog is worth it, just to see the Clapton Ultras do their thing.

Highest Scoring Match
Stone Dominoes 3-2 Abbey Hulton United and Middlewich 1-4 Stockport Town
A couple of back-to-back 5-Goal thrillers in pre-season action.

Grounds I want to visit this season
The Creek (Bristol Manor Farm)
My mate Tom (Partizan Bristle) has been recommending this one for as long as I can remember.
Harbour View Stadium (Harbour View)
Maybe if I win the lottery I'll pop over to Jamaica for this one.
Oriel Park (Dundalk)
If all goes to plan, a trip to Ireland is on the cards for late October.

But for now, it's back to Abbey Lane
I arrived at Hanley Town's home with 20 minutes to spare and was greeted by a smart, albeit it very basic, ground for the afternoon. With a similar style of stand to Brocton's Silkmore Lane, it seemed right that I'd made it to the ground nearest to me finally on a day where the weather was rainy and dull. I always expect to turn up to any Stoke ground on a drizzly afternoon, it's almost guaranteed, and it certainly didn't stop others coming in to see how the newly promoted side would get on today. With a free programme offered on the premise of it being "let down by the printer" upon entry, I duly headed in to sink my teeth into the facilities on offer.

Champions last season and doing well so far this time around
The side travelling down the M6 to Staffordshire today were the Colls. Last time the two sides met it was 6-0 to Atherton and it is safe to say that the League favourites were hoping to pick up a win today too. I had made a pre-match prediction of a 2-0 Atherton win, although I expected Hanley to give it their all as they have so far this season. The game was fairly early to get going, around 2:55pm by my watch, and as the rain subdued for a moment, the teams entered the fray. During the final moments of he warm-up, a stray ball headed towards me and with time to react, I was able to turn by back into a shield for my pint. In an ideal world, I would've headed the ball back to the lad who kicked it, but my priority was to not lose the beer I'd just been poured.

Game time
The opening started with sparks, as both sides had a decent chance in the opening 5 minutes. First up, Hanley's Sean Mountford scooped a misplaced shot high, wide and not so handsome- and this was to be followed up one minute later by the opposition. The Colls mounted an attack of their own and as a ball was hit into the left channel, the assertive run of the Green's attacker eventually led to a ball turned into the net via an own-goal from an on-rushing Hanley defender. Hanley 0-1 Atherton. From the rest of the first-half, it was a case of turn away now for the Hanley supporters. Between a bit of banter between the Hanley management and the Lino, who actually said "I used to be a ref, but they told me I were shit." which proved to be the only bit of light relief for the home bench, as more goals were on the way. On the 12th minute, the Colls attackers found themselves in a 2-on-1 situation with a flustered Blues centre-back, and Jordan Cover floated a perfectly-weighted chip on to his partner Battersby who hit an easy volley in to the net. Hanley 0-2 Atherton. The goal obviously angered the home bench and a kick to the spectators fence from one of the coaches almost caused me to fall into cardiac arrest! Between being hit by a ball and this, I wasn't having the most sturdy of afternoons.

I took my next beer around to the other side, it seemed safer
In all seriousness though, Hanley had made a shocking start and didn't seem likely to turn it around. The best chance that the hosts had in the opening half came from a wind-assisted defensive clearance, which bounced up awkwardly on to the bar of the Colls goal and almost forced Keeper Adam Reid to suffer a terrible embarrassment. The blushes, unfortunately for Hanley, were all for the home side though in this first-half and on 18 minutes the game seemed all but over. In what was almost a mimic of the second goal, with the roles of Cover and Battersby being reversed, Hanley played some suicidal defending amongst the back-line and when an interception came, another low-placed volley was to be the result. Hanley 0-3 Atherton. The 90 or so that I could see in the ground certainly didn't expect this start to the game, and already the many youngsters in the ground had turned away from the game and to the more satisfying taste of a Stokey Oatcake- can't say I blamed em!
The comfort of the bar was the only place to hide
Just before half-time the penultimate crushing fourth goal was to be conceded. A corner from the away side was reacted to far too slowly by Hanley and before the ball could be cleared, Danny Lafferty was on hand to pop in yet another goal. Hanley 0-4 Atherton. With a fifth on the horizon before half-time, the referee spared the home team with the whistle. Thank goodness!

Time for a toilet break- don't forget to lift that lid!
With the rain taking over the start of the second-half, I sensed that the Colls aim for the second-half was to just see out the convincing win. Hanley, on the other hand had obviously had a stern talking to, and came out looking like a football team. Still, there was to be no more action on the goal-front for now and the only efforts had been half-chances from Hanley at this point. On the 65th minute, one of the Hanley centre-backs showed off his best Daniel Agger impression with a 40-yard hit which unspectacularly went into the trees. A few moments afterwards though we were to see a shot on target for Hanley. With a corner to come, some rough and tumble action in the box resulted in the Ref taking a stand against the Colls defender and a penalty was awarded. With a solid run up and a firm finish, Dan Cope got the consolation goal and raised just a couple of cheers from within an already defeated Colin Stair Stand.

At last, a goal for the home fans to celebrate
One Hanley fan seemed somewhat deluded by this goal, and when the pressure continued he felt the need to repeatedly shout out "THEY'VE GONE!" in an attempt to get the crowd going. It didn't work, and instead all that happened was that a sole Colls fan sat in front of him departed the ground, saying "I'm not listening to this shit" as he did so. Hilarious.

Time for one more trip to the bar
The last 10-minutes mainly consisted of more pressure and pursuit of a second goal, with the odd break from Atherton. One of these breaks did end up in the net, but it was offside. Angelo Errko, the Hanley left-winger, was having a stunning second-half and caused many a problem to his opposition- with a couple of runs almost leading to a goal. He couldn't do it all on his own though and as the ref blew the final whistle his efforts had gone to waste. The game ended with a comprehensive victory for Atherton Collieries after a storming first-half in which Hanley Town could not recover despite a solid second 45. I departed the ground swiftly as I headed off to take a look at Northwood Stadium, former home of folded club Norton United, whilst I was in the area. I would however like to wish Hanley Town all the best for the rest of the season, after they provided me with an afternoon with the weather and atmosphere I'd expected, but not the result this time around. Up the Ducks!

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