We all know those defining moments of seasons ; Mark Robins header at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in 1990, Paul Dickov scoring against Gillingham at Wembley in 1999, and many others. It could just be that Luke Heron's 90th minute winner at Crilly Park could be our defining moment this season, the moment things began to turn in our favour.
It's been a difficult and unusual season so far with every game away from home, injuries and absences of key players at various times, but the attitude of the players has been amazing, with 100% being given by every player selected, and Tank, Hulmey and Robbo working their socks off on the training pitch and behind the scenes for the club.
So we arrived at Atherton LR with a record so far of W1 D2 L3 all from away or neutral games, which doesn't reflect at all, the quality of our play at times from this very young side that Mark has put together. Last season Tim Astley was sent off in an end of season game at Crilly Park which we went on to lose 6-1, and make no mistake about it, this was a game Atherton LR wanted desperately to win again, maybe they perceived us as there for the taking with the constant travelling perhaps taking its toll ?
Chaddy kicked off the game downhill, and started brightly, the game was barely 4 mins old when Luke Heron raced away on goal and was brought down from behind by the Atherton LR No.6. A clear red card which at first the referee didn't appear to give, but after consulting with his linesman, the Atherton stopper was directed to an early shower and Chaddy received a free-kick just on the edge of the 18 yard box. The kick from Dale Minor was cleared out, lobbed back in but the Atherton keeper gathered it.
Leon Iluobe then had a fine backwards header that looped just wide of the goal. The break through finally came a minute later on 10 mins, good work from Mike Moss on the right hand side saw LEON ILUOBE poke home the cross : 0-1.
14 mins saw another good chance for Chaddy when after a pass from Dale Minor, Mike Moss curled a lovely right foot shot just past the left-hand post. Vinny Howell had a great game, constantly moving, some lovely touches which even if they didn't come off, didn't affect his confidence to try again and on 18 mins Vinny had a neat volley which hit the side netting.
It was constant attacking now by Mark Howard's men and on 20 minutes Leon wove in from the left and crossed only for Mikey Moss to just fail to connect. There followed a short period of pressure for the home side who won a couple of corners which came to nothing and on 36 minutes MIKEY MOSS doubled the lead when he charged down a kick from the Atherton keeper and scored. 0-2 at the break and looking good for us.
Tank had underlined to the team at the break the importance of not switching off in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half when we knew Atherton would come at us, with nothing to lose. And come at us they did, charging down the hill, playing some very direct football and 46 minutes they forced a corner after a good save from Mike Smith, shooting just wide when the corner came across.
This was now a good period of pressure for Atherton LR who were coping with the deficit in numbers as if it didn't matter. On 50 mins Gaz Hill was booked for a foul on the right as Atherton came at us. The inevitable happened on 55 minutes when Theo Kidd struck one back past Smithy's right. 1-2. Atherton now sensed they could get something from our young team, with the centre backs of Tim Astley and Jimmy Dwyer being pressurised.
Chadderton managed to break out and attacked up the hill, and on 61 minutes we saw a great run from Leon, whose cross was cleared, pinged in again by Dale Minor and Vinny Howell went very close with a neat header.
A minute later however and the teams were level at 2-2, some slack marking in the Chaddy 18 yard box left left Alex Guest free to fire the ball home.
Atherton really worked hard now, using the advantage of the slope, playing very direct football that was causing our defence no end of problems. Luke Heron was booked by the ref and then Tank made a change bringing Jordan Anderson on for Gareth Hill on 75 mins. Jordan's cameo appearance lasted less than 10 mins as a re-occurrence of his hamstring injury meant he had to come off, being replaced by Nathan Chorlton on 84 minutes.
Chadderton started to get back into the game, and it has to be said that the lads kept trying to play their football and never gave up and on the 85th minute Mikey Moss had a shot which was well saved by the Atherton keeper. On the 90th minute Chaddy were still pressing but Vinny Howell's cross was collected by the keeper. Time was running out now, and it seemed this was going to be another case of a game we had had in our control slipping away, but it wasn't to be this time when on 92 minutes Dale Minor crossed, Vinny Howell squared the ball and LUKE HERON crashed the winner in. 2-3 What an ending ! and I have to say Heron swoops to snatch it ! That puts Luke on 5 goals now in only 6 games, joint top scorer with Mike Moss who has 5 from 7.
So, a defining moment ? maybe, but for once perhaps Lady Luck shone on us, and our never say die spirit won us the three points.
These months of August and September were always going to be a challenge on several levels, and they still are, it was always a question of playing all the away games and getting as many points as we could with the players available, so these hard fought 3 points are more than welcome on the board as we finally look towards hopefully playing at home at the end of this month.
MOTM : VINNY HOWELL
The other Mark.