Friday, January 05, 2007

In-form Colls aim to do a historic double

By Liam Chronnell
Source: Bolton News

ATHERTON Collieries have the chance to make history when they take on FC United.

Phil Brown's side could be become the first team ever to complete a league double over the breakaway club when the two meet tomorrow.

Colls, enjoying their best ever season in NWCL Division One, produced the shock result of the campaign when they defeated FC 3-0 at Gigg Lane six weeks ago.

And Brown will be hoping for a similar outcome against the non-league giants in front of a bumper crowd at Leigh RMI's Hilton Park ground, though he admits it will be a tall order.

"It was hard to win one game against them but to win two is extremely difficult," said the 37-year-old, who is in his first full season in charge at Alder House.

"But we'll play like we did last time; we'll be organised and disciplined and just see what happens."

Such has been the success this season at Atherton, no one would count against the mid-table side upsetting FC United for second time.

Since Brown took over on a permanent basis at Colls, the club has undergone a renaissance.

After dicing with relegation last term, Colls have already amassed 33 points - three more than they managed in the whole of last season - and take on Charnock Richard in the semi-final of the Goldline Trophy on January 22, with the final to be played at the Reebok Stadium.

The main reason behind the Lancashire club's upturn in fortunes is the close links forged with Myerscough College, where Brown is head of football development.

The Colls boss has taken some of the best young talent on the college circuit and combined it with an experienced nucleus of players.

"To have got more points at this stage than the whole of last campaign is great," said Brown, who lists Leigh RMI, Lancaster City, Kendal Town and Bamber Bridge among his former clubs.

"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to finish halfway and give an opportunity to the young players to develop - we've done both of those.

"Ten students, aged between 16 and 19, have played for us during this season, and we normally have six playing each week.

"The key has been getting the blend right between youth and experience."

The most visible example of bringing through the Myerscough students has to be Anthony Pilkington, the 18-year-old striker who joined Stockport County last month.

The teenage hit man, who scored a hat-trick in Colls' victory against the FC at Gigg Lane, has struck three times in four games for the League Two club. Brown admits they have struggled without the prolific Pilkington, but still has high hopes for the rest of the season.

"Our aims have changed now; we're looking for a top-eight finish," said the Preston-based manager. "But the main thing is the wheels don't fall off now.

We've been a bit up and down and that's been disappointing. It's been a bit like after the Lord Mayor's show since we beat FC United, so we need to get back on track."Rebels boss Karl Marginson has his own problems going into the game as his side look to return to the top of the table.

Alex Mortimer and Matty Taylor will undergo late fitness tests, while fellow defender Liam Coyne is still suspended. Midfielder Josh Howard returns after a one-match ban.

Atherton LR face a massive game in their bid to pull away from the danger zone when they travel to 19th place Nelson - one spot and three points below Rovers while Division Two basement club Daisy Hill visit promotion-chasing Leek CSOB.