Destination: Skinner Lane, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, WF8 4QE.
Competition: Northern Counties East League, Division One.
Kick-Off: 3.00 pm
Weather: Muddy, foggy, and chucked it down with rain in the second half.
Off The Pitch: See previous Ponty reports for ground details – not much has changed since I was last there – though the hole in the wall caused by last year’s March Winds has now been filled in. Links here:
On The Pitch: On a foggy day, Athersley Rec showed why they currently sit atop the NCEL’s Division One table. Despite being new to the league this season, they were good value for their win today against one of the usual favourites to be up there in the mix come March and April. Backed by an impressively sized travelling support, Athersley have a side which is full of pace and energy, and exploited the width of the pitch as much as possible. Former Colls striker Jason Bentley was a constant thorn in their side today, opening the scoring inside eight minutes following a quick break and a neat one-two with Lee Bennett, finishing by slotting the ball home in a one-on-one with the Ponty keeper. Ponty had chances of their own, but all too often seemed in a hurry to get rid of the ball or stab it forward as quick as possible, and like Handsworth of last year, this suited Athersley to a tee. The away side looked comfortable, and like they were always just waiting for chances to present themself to finish Ponty off. On the hour, the home side pressed self-destruct when a reckless challenge from midfielder Craig Robinson saw him shown a straight red by the referee. It seemed no coincidence when two minutes later, Athsersely doubled their lead – Declan Welford had a run at the Ponty right-back before unleashing a shot from the left edge of the box which curled exquisitely past Ponty keeper Simon Kemp and in off the far right post. Another decent strike from Jason Bentley then made it 3-0 to the visitors and the ‘game over’ signs flashed up in everyone’s minds. As the mist descended, a floodlight in the near corner of the ground failed, and seemingly so fortold Ponty’s diminishing hopes of glory this season.