Atherton Collieries 2023/24 FA Cup journey continued with an exhilarating 2-2 draw against league rivals Ashton United at Hurst Cross.

Although the afternoon ultimately proved fruitful for the lads in black and white, it was Ashton United who raced into the ascendancy, taking the lead when Mitchell Rose drilled home after five minutes.

The deficit doubled not long after, prolific forward James Caton crafted himself a one-versus-one opportunity, that he converted with ease.

Although they were facing an early setback, it was from this point the Colls proved themselves, stepping up a gear and beginning a historic comeback.

The Black and Whites were finally sparked into life towards the end of the first half. A cynical and scything foul from Sean Newton denied Lewis Mansell a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity on the edge of the box, with supporters of all creeds unable to explain the lenient outcome of a yellow card.

However, while a vocal jury were still asking questions of why a harsher punishment was not administered, it was instead Ben Rydel who stepped up to become executioner. The resulting free-kick was placed perfectly into the top corner, and the Stripes regained both a foothold and the momentum.

It was a second goal of what is becoming a fruitful FA Cup campaign for Rydel, who also provided an assist in the previous round. Credit must also go to the wide man’s defensive duties, as he comfortably won his individual duels against former Colls man, Marcus Cusani, throughout the afternoon.

Further kindling was added to the Black and White fire in the moments that followed the goal, as a penalty was not given for a potential handball in the box. The next flashpoint came courtesy of Luke Burke and Jordan Scanlon, with the Colls forward unfortunate to be booked for standing his ground following provocation from the Robins defender.

When play resumed for the second half, it was the Colls on the front foot, backed by a now boisterous away following that dominated the Hurst Cross atmosphere.

The inevitable came through Dylan Moonan, who connected perfectly to a Mansell knockdown to volley home the equaliser.

It was then a frantic finish to the game, as both teams were spurred on in the hunt for a winner.

With seconds left to play, young Atherton lad, Jack Buckley, produced the heroics on his first senior start, showing great reflexes with a fine save from a close-range header to seal the Stripes place in the bag for the third qualifying round draw.

Ultimately, both teams walked away ruing their missed opportunities to put the game to bed, with the Robins holding the early dominance before the Stripes fought until the death to claim the victory themselves.

It was a passionate showing from all involved, with a draw a more than fair result meaning a replay to decide who progresses.

The replay is at the Skuna Stadium tomorrow night (7.45pm).