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NWCFL send congratulations to Colls

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The North West Counties Football League have sent their congratulations to Atherton Collieries after they sealed the First Division title.

A statement on the league website said:

"Congratulations to Atherton Collieries, who clinched the First Division title with a hard fought 2-1 win at Cheadle Town.

Colls got off to a great start when Mark Battersby, wearing the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Brad Cooke, fired home his 61st goal of the season from the penalty spot to put his side ahead in the 11th minute.

However, Cheadle hit back as the game approached the half hour mark, and Town's leading scorer Nathan Neequaye equalised with a neat finish from a through ball that split the Colls defence.

Colls enjoyed the better of the possession in the second half, but were kept at bay by a strong and resolute Cheadle defence until nine minutes from time, when Luke Gibson smashed home the winner from close range.

From then on in, it was a case of seeing the game out, and the sound of the final whistle sparked noisy celebrations both on and off the field, including an impromptu photo session in the main stand where players, officials and supporters gathered for group photos and numerous selfies"

Colls manager Michael Clegg: "It feels absolutely unbelievable. Every minute of pre-season and every training session you are working towards this. Cheadle gave us a really tough test, but we showed what we are all about, we stuck at it, we never gave up and we got our just rewards.

"The winner came from Luke Gibson, who has just joined us from Runcorn Town, and he has settled straight in with all the lads, so it was absolutely fantastic for him to get the goal tonight.

"Some other teams might have just settled for 1-1 or maybe conceded another one, but that's not in this bunch of players. They are all mates off the pitch as well and it makes winning even sweeter, I'm thrilled for every single one of them.

"I think a massive turning point in belief in ourselves were two cup games, first beating Ramsbottom United (in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy) and then beating Colne (in the Men United Cup) who were absolutely flying after winning about ten on the bounce.

"I thought we were worthy winners that day, and I think that game made the lads believe that we had something special.

"I'm especially pleased for the lads who have stuck by us, despite not getting much game time, and we have not lost a player this year who we wanted to keep. It's a very happy camp.

"The great thing about these lads is their attitude, they've just had one beer and are now talking about the next game, and that makes my life very easy".

Colls captain Brad Cooke: "I don't anyone could have imagined this, it's been the most unbelievable season and could get even better.

"We knew pre-season we had something pretty special in the bunch of players we had, and we had a few friendlies against teams in higher divisions and were competing and beating them.

"So we knew we could be up there with a chance but never expected to do what we've done, break records and have a goalscorer like Mark Battersby. It's just been unbelievable right from the start.

"I think it was a boost confidence wise to beat Cammell Laird in the first game of the season. We knew they were going to be up there, and felt if you finished above them you were probably going to win the league.

"Then when we played them at home (just before Christmas) it was a six pointer, and we were 2-0 down with 20 minutes left. But I scored with about five minutes to go to make it two apiece, and that was really a turning point for us, and a game where afterwards we realised we had a chance.

"Fair play to Cammell Laird though, they have pushed us right to the end, and any other year we would have won it a few games ago.

"We've now got cup finals to look forward to, which are massive for us. Next Thursday (against AFC Darwen in the Reusch First Division Cup) is big for us. We want to bow out of this league, both as champions and winning the cup to really prove we are the best team in the league, so it means a lot next Thursday.

"Then when we play Glossop it's the best in our division against the best in the Premier Division, and it should be a great advert for the league.

"So we're not done yet, there will be a few shandies tonight but then it's a case of getting ready for the weekend".

Colls Secretary Emil Anderson: "When Michael first came in to see us (in the summer), he spoke so positively and ambitiously, and he said he was going to get us promoted, and now he's done what he said he would do.

"This is our first title in 28 years, and not only that we are champions with four games to go. We could have been champions with seven or eight games to go if it wasn't for Cammell Laird.

"We won on the opening day of the season at Cammell Laird and it just snowballed from there. But the thing that brought it home to me was when we played Clitheroe in the semi-final of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy. We underachieved, they beat us 2-0, but we had felt we were going on to win it, that's how well the season was going for us.

"We've had disappointments, like losing to Seaham Red Star in the FA Vase and losing at Northwich Flixton Villa in the league, but these lads have just bounced back.

"This season is beyond our wildest dreams. We've been close but not close enough for three or four years. I'm just so proud".

Source: www.nwcfl.com

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