It was a familiar story for West as they once again surrendered a lead as they fell 3-1 away to FA Vase heroes Atherton Collieries at Alder House.
Having missed last week’s 4-3 win at home to New Mills Manager Steve Settle returned to the dugout boosted by the rarity of naming an unchanged side. However there was a boost on the bench with the return of Rick Gleave in place of Carlos Mendes Gomes.
Following on from the excitement of both sides respective games last weekend it was almost inevitable that the opening stages would see both sides cancel one another out as they tried to contend with a bobbly pitch.
The first effort of the game didn’t come until the 17th minute and it was Richmond Botchey who created it as he cut inside from the left, beat two men and forced Colls goalkeeper Adam Reid to push away a low hard effort. Four minutes later a quick move at the edge of the area found Joe Shaw in space but the ball sat up just as he was about to strike it and he cleared the crossbar comfortably. On 25 minutes a cross found Shaw again but he slipped as he went to pull the trigger before Ben Steer saw his effort from the loose ball bravely blocked for a corner.
West grew in confidence and looked to have broken the offside trap on 29 minutes when Nic Evangelinos went through one-on-one, despite looking to be well on-side the linesman put his flag up with the West forward’s shot hitting in foot of the post. Colls, with their many striking options, responded as it took a superb tackle from Jordan Poole, playing right back, to deny Ben Hardcastle through on goal on 33 minutes before they struck the post with a hard effort from the edge of the area of their own a minute later. The ball striking the inside of the post and rolling across goal.
It was West though, who took the lead on 40 minutes as a long throw was cleared only as far as Martyn Andrews at the edge of the area and he did sublimely to spot Reid off his line and beat him with a deft chip from 20 yards out sending the travelling support into raptures.
Colls however, proved their title credentials and got themselves back on level terms with their very next attack as Gareth Peet fired a superb free kick into the bottom left hand corner to take the score at half time to 1-1.
It was Colls who struck first in the second half when a long range effort from Neil Chappell looked to have Dean Williams beaten only for it to strike the top of the crossbar and bounce over. The chance galvanised Colls and they should have taken the lead on 55 minutes when they broke through the offside trap only for the effort to roll past the post.
Colls replaced the prolific Mark Battersby with Jordan Cover and it had the desired effect as Cover gave the home side the lead on 66 minutes, as he broke the offside trap, doing well to hold off Kevin McGrath and slot it into the bottom corner despite complaints from West that Cover had initially used a hand to control it.
West went in search of a leveller of their own and Settle threw on Ben Woods in place of Nia Bayunu as he looked to push men forward. However it was the home side who got the decisive goal as Reid did superbly to push a corner away from directly under his crossbar as Colls raced down the other end of the field and in spite of a superb block on the line from Poole added their third through another substitute Dave Sherlock.
West didn’t let their heads drop however and were aggrieved to have not had at least one goal with Shaw going close twice from long range, in spite of having his shirt pulled in front of the referee. In the 90th minute West were then denied a stonewall penalty as a superb through ball released substitute Rick Gleave one-on-one only for his shirt to be pulled from behind dragging him to the ground. In spite of his perfect view of the incident Thomas Kirk waved away the protests. In stoppage time it was the turn of the linesman as a superb through ball cut through the Colls defence putting Evangelinos one-on-one as he finished coolly into the bottom corner to give West a glimmer of hope. However the linesman had been distracted by activity on the bench and, in panic, thrown up his flag.
They were merely salt into open wounds as Colls secured three points to move themselves joint top of the league and West losing their first away game in a run that see’s them play seven of the next nine away. The large travelling contingent from West showed their support for the players as they applauded one another at full time as, despite the result, they’d matched the league’s best side for long spells of the game.