Atherstone Town 2 Coleshill Town 2

Saturday 24th December 2011
Atherstone Town 2 Coleshill Town 2
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Sheepy Ground
Kick-off: 12-30 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Attendance: 269
Weather: mild, sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 45:52; second-half: 47:51

With just two games on today in the entire Midlands, Atherstone Town were rewarded with their largest attendance of the season and the bumper crowd saw a thrilling local derby. Visitors Coleshill eased into a two-goal lead and looks set to claim the points until the Adders fought back to earn a deserved draw with two late goals.

The present Atherstone Town FC was formed in 2004 and, due to off-the-field difficulties, they voluntarily dropped down from the Southern League to the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance at the end of last season. Predecessors Atherstone Town (1897–1979) and Atherstone United (1979–2003) also played at the Sheepy Road ground.

Now, this ground should have a high position on any ‘grounds to do list’. Previously visited by me once before in 1986, it is a wonderful venue full of character and one which oozes history. I guess that most of the main features of the ground date back to the halcyon days when the original Atherstone Town were a Southern League Premier Division club. The main stand occupies most of the length of one touchline with a substantial area of seating and an area of covered standing at one end. It was named the 'Andy Rammell Stand' after a former player who left the club for Manchester United and subsequently enjoyed a successful professional career. Opposite behind the dugout isan area of covered terrace on half-way with plenty of open terracing around the remaining parts of the ground. Wonderful!

A message, yesterday, on both Atherstone’s official website and the Non-League Matters Forum convinced me to head east rather than to the day’s other possible game in Bloxwich: ‘After a local pitch inspection this afternoon, Atherstone Town Officials are pleased to confirm that tomorrow's home game with Coleshill (Christmas Eve) is Definitely ON. The weather forecast is dry this evening and sunny all day tomorrow’. So off I headed east along the A5, left at the roundabout on to the A4116 (signed Twycross and Sheepy Magna) then right at the next roundabout by the distribution centre on to Rowlands Way to the ground.

Raffle tickets were on sale and my lucky strip for today was a yellow one – 736–740. Lucky? Find out later!

Atherstone (19th out of 22 teams with 18 points from 20 games) got the game underway attacking the grass bank [south-west] end in the first half, though it was visitors Coleshill (13th with 27 points from 19 games) who made the better start.

Early on, a left-wing corner caused problems for the Atherstone defence and defender Guy Clarke fired wide past the right-hand post. A nice move almost led to a goal for the visitors. Former Willenhall striker Richard Gregory took the ball forward and laid it off to the overlapping Chris Laight who hit an angled right-foot shot which keeper Courtney Belton beat away.

It was perhaps no surprise when Coleshill took the lead in the 17th minute. Danny Carter pulled the ball back from the right bye-line to the far post for Gregory to fire back low into the right corner of Belford’s net.

Perhaps content with their lead, Coleshill allowed Atherstone to create all the decent chances up to half-time. Just before the half-hour, Will Stannage was forced to produce an acrobatic save to keep out Dale Farley’s shot from the left (see photo right). The home side needed a goal to get reward for their pressure and David Boal poked a shot inches wide as the interval approached.

Winning raffle ticket numbers were announced and, just like Pinxton in January 2010, I was one strip away from winning second prize (741–746)!

Right on the stroke of half time, Laight crossed from the right and Carter’s header forced a good save out of Belford who turned the ball round the right-hand post.

By this time, I’d made my way around to the covered standing area at the end of the stand where 'Stourbridge Tim' and 'Hednesford Rob' were stood with a few other travellers. They proved good company right up to the full-time whistle.

Coleshill (in white shirts, blue shorts and blue socks) made a bright start to the second half. Carter fed Gregory who saw his shot beat Belford but Dean Johnson got back to clear the ball off the line. A lovely passing move set up another chance for Gregory who fired wide.

The visitors were certainly playing some nice football and doubled their lead in the 55th minute, though I’m not certain what actually happened. They were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area for a trip by Chris Socket on the tricky Carter. Both Carter and Sam Wilson lined up to go for goal (se photo right) and I think it was Carter who took the free-kick. The ball was cleared off the line and Laight, following-up with Steve Hakner, put in the rebound. The assistant referee flagged and the referee appeared to assume that Laight was offside. However, a quick chat between the two officials led to the referee signalling a goal as Carter’s initial free-kick had crossed the line (see photo lower right).

Atherstone immediately threw on Kurtis Mewes and he picked up a yellow card within seconds for a foul. The Adders (in red and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) upped their game and brave goalkeeping from Stannage kept out efforts from both Boal and substitute Mewes during the same attack. A long throw from Tom Weale flew off a defender just after the hour mark and looked destined for the net until Stannage pulled off another acrobatic save.

Eventually, Atherstone pulled a goal back in the 79th minute when George Washbourne fired home during a scramble inside the Coleshill area.

Given a warning, Coleshill looked for a third goal and Belford (in the opinion of the referee) turned round a fierce near-post shot from Carter.

Could Atherstone bag an equaliser? Yes, they could from an unlikely source in the 84th minute which I think they deserved. Full-back Johnson ,out on the right, hit a cross-cum-shot which flew over the helpless Stannage and dropped into the far left side of the net.

Coleshill almost snatched a winner in stoppage time. Gregory pulled the ball back for captain Jason Lams who drove just wide of the right-hand post.

The other game in the Midlands I mentioned involved Sikh Hunters and Tenbury United and they served up a seven-goal thriller which the visitors won by the odd goal. This West Midlands (Regional) League game was played at the Red Lion Ground in Bloxwich which Sikh Hunters share with Bloxwich United.

Atherstone Town (red and white stripes / black / red): 1. Courtney Belford, 2. Dean Johnson, 3. Chris Socket (capt), 4. Matty Selvester, 5. Craig Ridsdale, 6. Liam Bailey, 7. Jordan Holmes, 8. Tom Weale, 9. Dale Farley, 10. David Boal, 11. George Washbourne. Subs: 12. Kurtis Mewes (for Farley, 56), 14. Connor Renchen (for Holmes, 73), 15. Nathan Rolph (for Socket, 88), 16. Brandon Hayes (not used), 17. Joseph Swift (not used).

Coleshill Town (white/blue/blue): 1. Will Stannage, 2. Barry Fitzharris, 3. Steve Hakner, 4. Jason Lams (capt), 5. Guy Clarke, 6. Ben Porter, 7. Chris Laight, 8. Rob Seal, 9.Richard Gregory, 10. Danny Carter, 11. Sam Wilson. Subs: 12. Nathan McBean (for Seal, 75), 14. Remi Williams (for Laight, 68), 15. Carl Adams (not used), 17gk. Paul Hathaway (not used).

Referee: C. Ward.
Assistants: P. Hewitson and E. Corbett.

0-1 Richard Gregory (17)
0-2 Danny Carter (55)
1-2 George Washbourne (79)
2-2 Dean Johnson (85)

Atherstone: Kurtis Mewes (YC, 57)
Coleshill: Will Stannage (YC, 75)