ATHERTON Collieries may have lost their fixture at Scarborough Athletic but their 1-0 defeat shows just how far they have progressed in recent years.

A huge club with big ambitions, Scarborough have an illustrious past, but on Saturday the two sides met as equals, and Colls provided the East Yorkshire outfit with what they declared had been their toughest test to date.

With over a week’s rest behind them, Michael Clegg’s side went into the game ready and refreshed. With Ryan Salmon the only injury concern, Jordan Cover led the attacking line with a midfield five behind him.

In truth, the game was a tight affair from the opening exchanges.

Scarborough registered the first effort on goal with just three minutes played but after a square pass found Nathan Curtis in the centre of the area he tapped well wide of the mark.

The pace and strength of Cover is central to any Colls attacking moves and, on nine minutes, a ball zipped across the Flamingo Land Stadium’s artificial surface and was taken wide by the forward. He cut back inside before curling a smart effort at goal which the home players were relieved to see go narrowly the wrong side of the post.

The game’s only goal came midway through the first half. A cross into the area was latched upon well by Scarborough’s Michael Coulson and he used his height to head the ball across goal and towards the back of the net. Initially, it looked as if the Colls defence would claw it away but there was just enough pace on the finish for it to find its way over the line via a deflection.

Atherton reacted well, playing with confidence but it was Scarborough who went closer to a second goal, Sam Hewitt’s header from a corner bouncing back off the bar.

The last effort of the half fell to winger Ben Hardcastle, three minutes from time. From just inside the top right-hand corner of the area the winger turned and drove a fierce low effort, and Tom Taylor had to be alert to get down to prevent the equaliser.

If the first half had been a good, solid 45 minutes of football, then the second was a fantastic display from Clegg’s men, for whom the only thing missing was a goal.

Defender Danny Lambert opened the half by slicing a stray effort wide five minutes after the restart, a sign of things to come for the Colls faithful who, once again, had travelled in their numbers and made a huge amount of noise throughout the match.

Scarborough’s sole chance of the second half came on the hour mark, when a ball into the box was not cleared until after a heart-stopping game of pinball around the area ended with a desperate hoof upfield.

For the last 20 minutes of the game Atherton dominated and Hardcastle curled one wide after making space for himself on the edge of the area.

Four minutes later Gareth Peet came closest as, from a similar position, a sublime shot on goal rattled against the bar.

Substitute Brad Cooke had a huge impact, the midfielder acting as a target man as he won every ball and made the afternoon for Scarborough’s defenders a nightmare.

Two headers in quick succession came and went, the first sent over the goal by Cooke and the second only kept out by a wonderful stop by the back-pedalling Taylor, who somehow tipped the ball over the bar.

Ultimately, it was not meant to be for Colls, who worked unbelievably hard throughout the second period of the game and pushed Scarborough all the way.

This Saturday, Colls will hope they can deliver the result their performances deserve as they return to the Kensite Stadium to welcome Droylsden.