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City of Liverpool progressed to the 1st Round of the FA Trophy after a resounding 3-0 over Atherton Collieries on a bitterly cold evening at Skuna Park.
The fixture was initially scheduled for Saturday but put back to midweek with the agreement of the hosts, following a number of positive COVID tests in the Purps ranks.
Michael Ellison had a somewhat depleted squad to pick from but was bolstered by a number of new signings making their debuts in the fixture.
Starts were handed to goalkeeper Theo Roberts who joined from National League side Curzon Ashton, Jack Hinnigan made his first start at centre back after joining from Runcorn Linnets, and forward Mitch Bryant donned the #9 shirt after signing from Bury AFC.
The Purps started brightly, hunting in packs to deny the hosts space whilst a midfield fulcrum of Nathan Burke and Ethan Devine allowed Dom Reid, Rhain Hellawell and Jack Hazlehurst license to attack and support lone striker Mitch Bryant.
The hosts had the first half chance of the match as Dylan Glass found space in the Purps box, but the forward’s off-balance effort was watched wide by Theo Roberts.
At the other end the lively Bryant and Dom Reid had half chances to test Colls keeper Danny Taberner but fired wide.
It was Michael Ellison’s side who drew first blood however, as a delicate ball over the top from Rhain Hellawell left the hosts defence in all kinds of trouble.
Dom Reid stole in off the left to volley right footed beyond Danny Taberner to put the visitors in front with only 7 minutes on the clock.
The hosts almost equalised against the run of play soon after as Danny Lafferty rose highest to meet Vinny Bailey’s corner but the Atherton skipper’s header flew over Theo Roberts’ crossbar.
The visitors appeared to have a firm grip on the game with Jordan Barrow and Hinnigan at the back answering every question asked of them by the Colls forwards in the opening exchanges, whilst the hosts had Lafferty and Rick Smith struggling to cope with the physical presence and pace of Mitch Bryant.
The Purps deservedly extended their lead in bizarre fashion after 31 minutes as Jack Hazlehurst capitalised on a defensive and goalkeeping calamity to volley home from 30 yards.
A mix up at the back saw the hosts gift the Purple Messi possession as keeper Taberner was left marooned off his line offering his defenders an option going back to their own goal.
Hazlehurst made no mistake, coolly lobbing the ball into the empty net.
On the stroke of half time the hosts had a chance to test Roberts with a free kick in a dangerous position. Gareth Peet curled majestically over the wall but the debutant Purps keeper made a great stop, holding the ball down low as Marcus Cusani lurked for any spillages.
HALF TIME: Atherton Collieries 0-2 City of Liverpool
The Purps came out well after the interval, continuing to press high out of possession as the hosts struggled to build any clear sights of goal. The fledgling partnership of Jordan Barrow and Jack Hinnigan looked impenetrable, reducing Colls to long balls and crosses from deep which were meat and drink for the dominant Purps centre backs.
The visitors put the result beyond all doubt after 51 minutes as a glorious cross-field ball from Ethan Devine released Dom Reid out wide.
The winger’s drilled cross picked out Hazlehurst in the Colls area who pirouetted on the ball before firing a low effort which Taberner did well to push out. Mitch Bryant reacted first to the save, drilling the loose ball home for a debut tap-in from 6 yards.
It was no more than the former Manchester United and Reading youth prospect deserved on a promising first outing in City of Liverpool colours.
Atherton made a number of attacking changes as they looked the get a route back into the game but the Purps, who were 50-1 with some bookmakers before the game, looked good value for their lead.
In the closing stages lively substitute Jordan Darr threatened from close range but his powerful effort appeared to be blocked on the line by a team mate.
Needless to say, the Purps held out for a deserved victory over higher-tier opponents and will face Buxton away in the next round, whenever football resumes.
FINAL SCORE: Atherton Collieries 0-3 City of Liverpool.
City of Liverpool: Roberts, Rigby, Barrow, Hinnigan, Corrigan, Burke, Devine, Reid, Hellawell, Hazlehurst (McEllin), Bryant (Gray).
Subs not used: Cartwright, Reed (GK)
Man of the Match: Jack Hinnigan was imperious at the back on his debut, dealing with everything both in the air and on the deck in a composed and mature performance. His partnership with Jordan Barrow gave his side a firm foundation at the back, and he just edges out the excellent Mitch Bryant.
We caught up with Michael Ellison after the game and he gave us his thoughts on an excellent performance from his side.
Matchday Photo Gallery:
Atherton Colls v City of Liverpool
FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round
Wednesday 4th November. 19:45 KO
Atherton is located within Greater Mancher and they are currently in Tier 3 Lockdown just as we are in the Liverpool City Region.
Unfortunately Purps supporters are not permitted to travel to this fixture because Government, F.A and Local Authority guidance states that travelling in/out of Tier 3 is not allowed without a valid reason.
Travelling to watch football is not a valid reason, and so the club will only have essential staff in attendance at the match.
Our club Media Team will be providing a range of ways in which you can keep up to date on events at The Skuna Stadium.
After the match we’ll try and grab a quick word with manager Michael Ellison to get his thoughts on the game, along with match action videos from MOTJ and matchday photo gallery, all of which will be within the match report.
As I’m sure your all aware a National Lockdown goes into effect from Thursday till 2nd December however there is just time for the Purps to visit Atherton Colls in the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round. This fixture was postponed a few days due to 2 members of club staff completing isolation and we thank Atherton for their understanding and assistance in moving the tie.
Last time out for the Purps was the trip to an in-form Colne. It would be the toughest game of Michael Ellison reign so far not just for the quality of the opponents but the conditions too. It absolutely lashed it down for 90 mins straight on a pitch with an incline that could be described as Moel Famau-esque (especially as the ground become more boggy as the game went on).
Colne took a 1-0 lead into half time and it became an uphill battle for the Purps, quite literally, as they were playing up Snowden in the 2nd half. The conditions actually helped the Purps get a deserved equaliser. An underhit back pass held up on the edge of the box allowing Jay McDonald to nip in, compose himself and bend a lovely right footed effort past the keeper and into the far corner.
It was to be a short lived parity as Colne took control of the game, scoring 3 times in 15 minutes. In truth the Purps contributed to their downfall with some individual mistakes that Colne seemed to punish everytime. Colne then had the luxury of bringing on ex-pro Ryan Taylor to sit in front of the back four to see the game out for the last 15 minutes. The Purps pulled one back in injury time as Nathan Burke slotted a penalty after the lively Rhain Hellawell was felled in the box. A 4-2 defeat in the end.
Atherton play one league above City of Liverpool in the Northern Premier Division. They currently sit in 9th place after taking 13 points from their opening 8 games and have just 1 loss in their last 5 games.
Its not the first time these two sides have met, with the sides having played out a pulsating 3-3 draw in the NWCFL Champions Cup final during the Simon Burton era.
The Purps came from two goals down to level at 2-2 courtesy of quick-fire second half goals from Jamie McDonald and Joe Camozzi, before falling behind again rom the penalty spot.
The Purps had already had Mike Smith sent off, when Assistant Manager Tom Spearritt, making a rare playing appearance, made a miraculous point blank save to deny the hosts a certain goal. The only problem was that Tom was playing centre back at the time and then also received his marching orders! The hosts scored from the spot to edge ahead again.
Miraculously, Karl Noon scored in injury time to equalise for the never-say-die nine men of City of Liverpool, taking the match into an extra thirty minutes.
The Purps looked the more likely winner of the two sides in extra time, with John McGrath going closest, but the game went to penalties. Goalkeeper Stephen Longrigg was once again the hero in a shoot-out, as the underdogs triumphed 4-3 to lift the cup.
Last time out in the Trophy the Purps were awarded the tie after Cleethorpes Town pulled out and we progressed to the next round. It is now our best ever cup run in the Trophy and should we progress we will be rewarded with an away tie against Buxton in the 1st round proper.
29/07/17 Atherton Colls 3-3 COLFC
(COLFC won 4-3 pens)
Unfortunately due to local Covid-19 restrictions no Purps fans who live within the Liverpool City Region are allowed to attend.