WHEN Atherton Collieries and FC United of Manchester were the first two balls out of the velvet bag, Colls knew they had already nabbed the glamour FA Cup tie that they’ve been hankering for over the years.

They were handed a tie at the Rebels’ new custom-built facility close to Newton Heath in front of crowds pushing the 2,000 mark.

And after their 2-2 draw the two sides will reconvene at the Skuna Stadium for a replay tonight (7.45pm).

Before the game, Atherton manager Michael Clegg predicted a terrific cup tie with two teams going toe to toe, and so it was to play out in front of more than 1,200 spectators o the day.

FC twice took the lead, only for Colls to peg them back – they had a very tight offside decision go against them to deny them a 3-2 lead before weathering a stoppage-time bombardment.

A bright start saw the sides exchange chances, Colls captain Danny Lafferty seeing his tame header easily dealt with and the hosts’ Paul Ennis and Tunde Owolabi combining for the latter to drag a shot wide of the goal.

The towering frame of centre-back Tom Dean caused Colls problems from set-pieces all day, and his clear header on 17 minutes was a warning of what was to come.

Colls’ best chances of the half came in a five-minute spell midway through. First, Gaz Peet was chopped down on the edge of the box, but Vinny Bailey’s free kick was easily gathered by Paddy Wharton in the goal.

Minutes later, Wharton was beaten to a Peet cross by Tom Bentham sliding in at the near post. Somehow the ball flew over with the unguarded net gaping.

Colls were to rue that miss just after the half-hour mark as Dean connected with another corner. With Owolabi hovering, the defence’s desperate attempts to intercept only served to direct the goalbound header into the net to open the scoring.

A reshuffle at half time saw Colls revert to a 4-4-2 formation, with the hobbling Ben Hardcastle replaced by the energetic legs of Brad Lynch.

And Lynch was instrumental in levelling the game 10 minutes after the restart.

Collecting the ball in the FC half, he laid off to Bentham and ran through the middle of the split defence, to latch on to his intelligent reverse ball, perfectly placed into his path, and coolly slotted home.

The parity was short-lived as an FC free kick deep in Colls’ half less than five minutes later was again headed in by Dean to restore their lead.

On 76 minutes it was Colls’ turn to cause chaos in the box from a corner. Jack Egan’s delivery was headed on by Lafferty then snapped up and despatched by fellow defender Clive Smith to silence the home fans behind the goal.

However, FC were straight back on the attack and, yet again, Dean got his head to a corner, but could not direct his effort on target.

Minutes later came the moment of controversy.

Substitute Jordan Cover flew down the right flank and crossed to the back post, where Lynch arrived to stab home, only for the assistant’s flag to pop up.

The game then see-sawed as both teams hunted a potential winner.

It was FC who applied most of the late pressure, the final phase of play saw Lafferty throw himself in the way of a shot through a crowded penalty area to avert the last bit of danger and take the tie back to Atherton.