Atherton Collieries 0-1 Radcliffe: Owolabi the hero as Boro take a decisive step in the title race
By Matthew Jones
By Daniel Pryer
Tunde Owolabi came off the bench to score the winner as Radcliffe beat the Evo-Stik West league leaders Atherton Collieries 1-0 at the Skuna Stadium.
The Colls had the best chance of the first-half, Ben Hardcastle fizzed a first time ball across the corridor of uncertainty, but to no avail.
Jon Macken's side had sporadic success down the left flank in the first half an hour. Aaron Burns was found free numerous times, but couldn’t churn out a cross both times for the oncoming Ben Wharton.
Scott Metcalfe pounced from the left-wing and found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat, but the shot was tamed and straight at Greg Hartley.
The second-half was one of pending changes for Jon Macken. Top-scorer Tunde Owolabi And Elliot Rokka entered the field 10 minutes in, to add a more pace-filled attack.
Speed was felt instantly when Metcalfe’s header inside the box fell to Owolabi, but he couldn’t keep his cross down after neat footwork.
Then, the big moment arose on 70 minutes. Owolabi, the substitute shimmied one way and sent two defenders the other, before squeezing the ball past the home side’s number one. Delirium commenced amongst the travelling faithful.
Five minutes on, Hardcastle's powerful attempt hit the hand of Lee Neville and the referee signalled for a penalty. Michael Clegg's side had the opportunity to level, but the penalty was thrashed wide by Hardcastle.
Radcliffe now sit a point behind Atherton on the same number of games played.
Tunde terrors from the bench again
It was typical Tunde. Not necessarily because of a vintage performance, but coming off the bench to score. It seems to be a common theme this season for the Belgian.
The “impact” player of all impact players certainly rubber-stamped Radcliffe’s authority, not just in the game but in the race for the West title.
He caused trouble with his runs, dragging Gareth Preet out of position, and that was just off-the-ball. It's no wonder the Boro striker is being recognised as one of the league’s best players.
Dogged Defence, Desire and Togetherness
Much has been said about Radcliffe’s arsenal, but there’s no victory without armour.
Macken’s back four looked impenetrable for the majority of the game, baring a penalty which was put wide by Bailey. The side were irreproachable - and it was possibly the best result under Macken’s leadership.
It was a performance which epitomised the team spirit amongst the squad. The 11, and the substitutes as well, willing and wanting to go the extra yard for each-other.
Radcliffe record back-to-back 1-0 wins against two of the top three.
Clean 17: Man of the Match - Ollie Martin
Although the match was won by Owolabi, Martin’s contributing over the past two games has been crucial.
Martin was at his majestic best against the Colls. He was vital in keeping out the Collieries fire, including a fantastic reflex save to keep out a deflected effort from Sherlock.
The Boro man goalkeeper has now kept 17 clean sheets this season - more than anyone else in the league.