Coalville Disappointing In League Cup Final Defeat
A surprisingly limp cup final performance from the Ravens ensured Atherton Collieries – a league below Coalville – deservedly took home the Integro League Cup trophy.
A lack of composure and a lack of energy – Coalville failed to end the season on a high and complete a cup double as the Colls ultimately proved to be the better side on the day, controlling their Northern Premier League opponents for the majority of the contest.
No changes were made to the team that were comprehensively beaten 5-2 at home to Rushall on Saturday.
It was the Ravens who started the brighter of the two sides, with dangerous crosses from Nathan Watson and Tom McGlinchey putting Greg Hartley’s handling to the test in the early exchanges.
Despite the encouraging opening five minutes it was Atherton who took the advantage after eight minutes. Coalville’s season-long weakness – defending corners – was again exposed, with Josh Messer powering home a header at the back post after Gareth Peet’s floated corner.
As the contest went on the Ravens’ opposition began to tighten their grip on the game, keeping the ball for large periods and showing composure that Coalville could only dream of at that stage of proceedings.
And things could have got worse for the Ravens in the 26th minute when Jordan Cover was slipped through on goal. Thankfully for Coalville the Atherton attacker misjudged his effort, dragging his shot wide of the left post.
Kyle Dixon came the closest for Coalville in the first half, driving through the centre and powering a shot straight at the keeper, who caught the shot with relative ease.
A further two chances fell to Atherton as an underwhelming half of football came to an end, with Steve Towers blocking Cover’s attempt and Peet whipping a free kick narrowly wide.
Coalville did almost fluke their way back into the contest soon after the break. A long ball forward in the 49th minute forced Matty Grimshaw into an improvised header which nearly caught his keeper out, but Hartley reacted sharply to tip the ball over.
However, Atherton were soon back on the front foot as Ben Hardcastle somehow dragged his shot wide from 10 yards after latching onto a low cross.
The Colls then doubled their advantage in the 65th minute thanks to the ever dangerous Cover, who was again released one on one. The forward did almost waste a second opportunity – hitting the post with his initial effort – but Cover made no mistake with the rebound, tapping into the empty net from two yards out.
Everything then seemed to be falling apart for the Ravens when Danny Jenno conceded a penalty two minutes later – despite appearing to slide in and win the ball. Thankfully Coalville were given a lifeline as Hardcastle side-footed his spot-kick wide of the right post.
This acted as a wake-up call for Coalville, who responded by creating two decent chances, First Alex Howes went close from the edge of the box, firing over an acrobatic effort. Watson then went closer two minutes later, seeing his 20-yard free kick tipped onto the post by Hartley.
With 85 minutes on the clock the Ravens gave themselves hope. Daniel Creaney lifted the ball over the top for Watson, who delicately cushioned the ball over the advancing keeper and into the bottom left corner.
But despite having a total of 10 minutes (including injury time) to carve out at least one final chance, Coalville were unable to do so, looking devoid of ideas as Atherton coped easily with the Ravens’ direct approach.
Perhaps the best chance of grabbing a late leveller fell to Creaney, who was unable to control Elliott Taylor’s long ball into the box.
There was still time for a late bit of action though, with substitute Jermaine Hollis being dismissed in the final minute of injury time for kicking out at Hartley.
The disappointing defeat brings an end to Coalville’s 2017/18 season, which saw the side retain their NPL status and win Leicestershire Challenge Cup, as well as bringing an end to the successful Coalville careers of Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey after over three years of service at the club.