ATHERTON Collieries completed a league double over play-off-chasing Stalybridge Celtic, running out 3-0 winners at the Skuna Stadium.

Colls had beaten their local rivals 2-1 at Bower Fold in September but this victory came with a more convincing scoreline, and leaves Brad Cooke’s men looking to start moving up the league table.

Colls broke the deadlock midway through the first half through Louis Myers.

After Vinny Bailey had released him,Tom Bentham delivered a pinpoint cross to the back post which Myers expertly headed across the goalkeeper and into the net for his first goal for Atherton.

On the stroke of half time, the hosts doubled their lead through captain Danny Lafferty. An inviting free kick into the box was fumbled by Celtic keeper Alex Fojticek, which caused chaos for the Stalybridge defence and after a goalmouth scramble, the defender prodded home to make it 2-0 at the break.

After the restart, Celtic piled on the pressure and created several chances but could not halve the deficit, with Clive Smith in particular putting his body on the line with some wince-inducing blocks.

And, with nine minutes remaining, Black and Whites’ midfielder Ben Conway was fouled in the box and Bentham stepped up to send Fojticek the wrong way with the spot-kick for his 15th of the season and a goal that sealed the three points for the home side.

With this victory, the Atherton side sit in 16th place in the BetVictor League Premier Division table, though they can improve upon that, given they have as many as six games in hand over teams above them.

Colls manager Cooke was full of praise for his side’s performance and effort levels.

“We were excellent today, absolutely excellent, I’m so so proud of the lads,” he said. “I thought from the first whistle we were on the front foot. We won every first ball, second ball and we looked dangerous.

“I’m so pleased to beat a side like that, who are fifth in the league, convincingly 3-0. It just shows how far we’ve come.”

Cooke was particularly pleased with the display of Myers, who has struggled with injuries this season, and nominated him as the day’s stand-out performer.

“There were some fantastic performances again today,” he added. “I’m delighted for everyone at the club and I’m absolutely delighted personally for Louis Myers as well.

“He’s worked tirelessly these last few weeks and he got his reward today with a fantastic goal and, for me, a man-of-the-match performance.

“It was a fantastic team performance which is what we want, they’ve rolled their sleeves up, they’ve dug in, the pitch was tough, and we’ve given it absolutely everything we’ve got.

“If we do that every week then I’m going to be a happy, happy manager.”

Cooke was delighted with the turnout from the fans and thanked them for the backing they showed the team.

“The support was brilliant,” he said. “Thank you to everyone that came today, I hope they enjoyed it and I’m sure they can appreciate the effort the lads put in.”

Stalybridge return to the Skuna Stadium tonight, as the two sides are scheduled to meet again in the Integro League Challenge Cup.