FOLLOWING a tumultuous 48 hours since the shock defection of manager Michael Clegg and his staff to Ashton United, Atherton Collieries responded unbelievably to record their best win of the season, 4-1 at home to Bamber Bridge.

The Preston opposition arrived on the back of a couple of good victories and hoped to exploit the upheaval at the Skuna Stadium.

Colls were unchanged from the side which upset the Boston United apple cart with a victory in the FA Trophy last time out.

The game started brightly but both defences were on their mettle.

Gareth Peet was again a catalyst for all things good about the hosts and he was unlucky not to win a penalty when he was bundled over.

However, Colls did get a nailed-on spot-kick decision on 26 minutes.

Ben Hardcastle was dragged down and Tom Bentham sent Brig keeper Lloyd Rigby the wrong way with the resulting penalty.

Ben Conway unluckily hit the bar from out wide before Bentham bagged his second – and 12th of the campaign – from close range after a Conway assist.

The resurgent Conway then got the goal his first-half display deserved after being teed up by Hardcastle.

James Dean had Brig’s best effort but his hurried snap-shot hit the post. A virtuoso 45 minutes the from the home team saw them go into the break 3-0 up.

Ten minutes into the second half the lead was increased when Hardcastle got his just reward following good approach play from Peet.

Hardcastle’s strike wrapped things up for Colls, who turned down their intensity a notch, happy that – barring a miracle – the three points were in the bag.

Brig came into the proceedings more and in-form striker Gary Pett pulled one back when his sharp shot nestled into the bottom corner of the net.

He almost added to his tally in the dying embers of the game but Greg Hartley denied him with an excellent reflex save.

The players left the field to rapturous applause from the Colls fan base, who had rallied to the pre-match cry of skipper Danny Lafferty to be the 12th man.

On an emotional afternoon in Atherton special mention has to go the departing coaches who prepared the team with enthusiastic professionalism and enabled the lads to play with unbridled freedom.

Clegg’s departure for Ashton marked the end of an era at Atherton, where he leaves an unbelievable legacy. And what a ride it has been over the last five-and-a-half years.

“Hopefully whoever comes in at Colls can carry on where we’ve left off,” he said. “That would be the ideal situation for me.”

Tonight Colls travel to Ashton Athletic for their Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy quarter-final.

They are back at home on Saturday when Hyde United are the visitors in a league fixture.