ATHERTON Collieries manager Brad Cooke heaped praise on his captain Danny Lafferty, after the defender grabbed a late equaliser at high-flying Warrington Town.

Cooke compared the clash to a basketball game, with both sides taking turns attack each other at Cantilever Park.

In a tight first half, it was Warrington who led at the break, through Ben Garrity’s 29th-minute opener.

Cooke’s side refused to leave empty-handed, however, and Lafferty found their leveller with eight minutes left on the clock, and Colls could even have snatched victory in the dying embers of the match through Tom Bentham.

Though they were denied the maximum points, Cooke was keen to sing Lafferty’s praises.

“He’s everything you want in a captain. He pulls everyone in together before games and out of football he is an absolute rock,” said Cooke after his skipper’s vital late header. “He’s been instrumental since I came in, he’s my leader and that’s exactly what I wanted from him. That’s why we want to keep him for as long as we can and it’s why I’m delighted he’s signed a contract until the end of next season.

“It shows his faith in me and I’ve not got enough words to speak highly enough of Danny Lafferty, he’s an amazing person and player.

“He’s popped up with a goal today and it was a great header, so he deserves all of the plaudits.

“It was like a game of basketball – you attack, we attack – and no one really created any chances.

“In the first half I think we edged it slightly and then in the second half it would be fair to say they were the better side up until the last few minutes, but we could have gone on and nicked all three points.”

Next up for Cooke’s side is a trip to face Vanarama National League leaders Barrow tonight, in an FA Trophy replay.

The Colls were denied a famous win against their higher-league opponents in December, when Morgan Penfold rescued a 2-2 draw for the Bluebirds 13 minutes from time.

Ian Evatt’s side are three points clear at the top of the National League, unbeaten in 12 games, and enjoyed a 7-0 victory over Ebbsfleet United at the weekend, but Cooke believes his side will go into the clash at Holker Street full of confidence.

“I heard they struggled today and only won 7-0,” he said, after Barrow’s impressive weekend victory. “We knew it was going to be tough, but we’ll go up there full of confidence. We’re on a really good run and we’ve got nothing to lose.

“No one gave us a prayer in the first game, and no one will give us a chance going up there again. We’ll give it everything we’ve got and I’m sure they’ll show us a lot more respect.

“Let’s see what happens.”