ATHERTON Collieries returned two action with a gritty 1-0 win at Grantham Town in NPL Premier Division.

After a two-week break without action, they were tough conditions in South Kesteven and the game was initially slow to settle as both teams adjusted to the high winds and rain.

However, the Stripes soon adjusted and eventually gained their foothold in the match during the 19th minute.

From a free-kick following a cynical body check from Grantham’s Glynn Yala on Gaz Peet, Ethan Kershaw floated an inviting cross into the box, and Luca Defreitas-Hansen powered a header home, giving the Collieries the lead in front of the ever-loyal travelling faithful.

Controversy ensued after 27 minutes, however, when Grantham’s Gregg Smith, a physical presence and combative target man, caught the Colls’ Joel Amado with an arm during a 50/50 on the halfway line.

Following a brief stoppage while the defender received treatment, Smith was handed a yellow card, a decision which was questioned by both sets of supporters.

The next major opportunity fell for the Colls at the end of the first period. Clive Smith played a cross which found the ever-creative Ethan Kerhsaw, who headed wide with a golden opportunity to double the lead.

Grantham returned for the restart reinvigorated. Though the possession of the ball lay with the hosts more often than not throughout the second half, resolute defending from the Collieries limited the Gingerbreads to speculative efforts and half-chances.

Marcus Cusani came close early doors, beating a high Grantham line and producing a fine save from Grantham stopper Jim Pollard.

The best opportunity of the match fell to the aforementioned Gregg Smith. With 10 minutes remaining, the disruptive centre forward won a header at goal, and produced what was undoubtedly a save-of-the-season contender from Luke Hutchinson, who tipped the ball wide at full stretch with lightning quick reflexes, the highlight of a fantastic showing from the stopper.

Throughout the late pressure, the Collieries defended professionally and crafted some dangerous counter-attacks of their own. Zack Clarke, a Chester loanee making his Stripes debut, caused particular problems for the Grantham defence.

Ultimately, the Colls successfully held on for a well-deserved three points, with the Grantham possession coming to limited opportunities and no avail.

Tonight, Brad Cooke’s team host Chorley in the quarter-final of the Lancashire Challenge Trophy (7.45pm).
The match has been switched from Chorley due to a pitch issue there.
Admission prices are adults £8, concessions £5, 12-18 year olds £3, under-12s free.