Athernton Colliers 0 2 Clitheroe FC
Blues reach Lancashire FA Challenge Final after an early red card and late winner in a dramatic semi-final
Clitheroe came into this long awaited semi-final without three key players, Laquan Esdaille, Jay Hart and Peter Collinge all cup tied. Whilst their opponents Atherton Colliers boasted non-league’s top goal scorer, Mark Battersby, a man who’s found the net 43 times this season.
It was The Colls who began the game under the floodlights of the Lancashire FA’s County Ground. The first chance fell to the same men in black and white, as they exhibited fast and precise build up play, cumulating in mark Battersby striking across goal.
An early threat from the side two leagues below Clitheroe demonstrated why they have lost just once in the North-West Counties First Division this season. Though the Blues responded, a 23rd minute counter attack ending with Louis Mayers having his shot saved by Atherton Keeper Danny Taberner.
Only four minutes later Battersby had another chance, this time a free header fired towards stand in keeper Zach Hibbert’s goal, but again the 40 plus goal man was not living up to his name.
However, The Blues looked to have run out of luck when player manager Simon Garner was sent off following two yellow cards in two minutes, the first for descent towards referee Mainwaring, who showed no fear in presenting Garner with a second yellow for a hearty two footed challenge. The Blues would have to play the remaining 62 minutes with 10 men.
Though the sending off seemed to spark life into the Shawbridge men, as they began to play like a side indeed two tiers above their opponents. Zac Dale’s 30th minute half volley was grasped by Taberner, five minutes later is was Dale again causing issue as his cross found the towering head of Sefton Gonzales, Taberner again keeping his side in this fight for the final performing an acrobatic stop.
Moments before time it was The Colls’ time for a chance, brilliant running with the ball resulted in Battersby sifting through The Blues’ defence with ease, his strike looked certain to break the deadlock before Roberto Bonaminio’s leading right foot spared Garner’s men.
The second half witnessed a Blues side in control, despite being a man down The Blues dominated play, The Colls were lucky to generate more than three passes as the Shawbridge 11 utilised the speed and skill of young Cory Bent on the right wing. However it was captain David Lynch who came closest to putting one foot in the final, his 66th minute point blank effort blocked by the hand of Taberner after continued Blue pressure.
Atherton Colliers were forced to wait till the 68th minute before they were granted a shot on target, Kristian Holt with the far from goal curling effort calling Hibbert into combat, the man in aluminous green denying The Colls’ number 10. Only seven minutes later Hibbert was on hand to save the day again as Ben Hardcastle’s shot from 8 yards out was blocked by the man in goal.
However, in the 85th minute fine work, ball control and dribbling between right back Danny Morton and Cory Bent cumulated in Bent drilling the ball across goal, latching onto the right foot of captain Lynch who finished past Taberner, The Blues looked to have secured an epic late winner to send them into the final.
The Colls now facing only their second defeat of the season stepped up, sustained pressure of the Clitheroe defence resulted in little but a 90th minute yellow card for Mark Battersby. The only impact for the much talked about front man in the lead up to this semi-final.
Only moments later Clitheroe’s place in the Lancashire FA challenge Trophy final was confirmed with a second goal. Louis Meyers this time, his deflected strike travelling past the helpless Taberner. The Blues’ 58th goal of the season finished off a dramatic and memorable game.
After the match manager Simon Garner said:
"We've been superb and scored two really good team goals.
"The turning point was definitely me getting sent off."
"We're a small club but it's a great club and we've got a great side here."
Goal scorer and captain David Lynch continued his manager's praise:
"I'm absolutely delighted, every one of use was superb.
"obviously delighted to score and get through."
After a run that has seen Garner’s men beat Nelson, Bamber Bridge and now Atherton Colliers, they now look to their final opponents, Chorley FC who sit two tiers above them in the Conference North. The teams will meet on Monday 16th of March at Bolton Wanders’ Macron stadium.
For detailed coverage and all the latest news in the run up to the final visit www.clitheroefc.co.uk
Zach Hibbert, Danny Morton, Seydou Bamba, Roberto Bonominio, Danny Brady, Simon Carner, Cory Bent (Walker 88), David Lynch ©, Sefton Gonzales, Zac Dale (Burns 77), Louis Mayers
SUBS: Richard Burns, James Walker, Ross Dent, Ryan Cattermole, Tom Jackson
Danny Taberner, Jake Kenny, Nathan Battersby, Josh Messer (Swanton 60), Gareth Carson (Cover 85), Mark Ayres, Ben Hardcastle, Bradley Cooke ©, Mark Battersby, Kristian Holt, Tom Shaw
SUBS: Jordan Cover, Matt Bowland, Rob Swanton, Andy Heald, Mark Adams
Clitheroe: Garner (2), Gonzales
Atherton Colliers: M Battersby, Carson