Squires Gate 2, Atherton LR 2
A LAST-GASP equaliser saved a point for Gate after the relegated bottom club had led 2-0 at half-time in this North West Counties premier clash.
Gate were rocked after five minutes when Michael Simpson put the visitors ahead and Gate could not get to grips with the team sitting 29 points below then at the bottom of the league.
A young and determined Atherton side kept up the pressure and doubled their lead on 27 minutes through Ashley Duckworth.
Gater were unable to make inroads into the opponents’ half before the interval but player-boss Russ McKenna’s half-time talk seemed to make a difference.
The home side managed to get into danger areas and push Atherton back, getting back into the game with a penalty five minutes after the restart.
Chris Bennett was brought down and despatched the spot-kick himself.
And when McKenna brought himself on for the injured Ben Fishwick in midfield, it looked as though the home side would finally take control.
Even so, home keeper Neil Beesley was called upon to make three testing saves and Tom Bartlett made a vital clearance.
Gate’s efforts were finally rewarded in the 89th minute, when McKenna blasted an equaliser through a crowded goalmouth.
McKenna said: “We started slowly and found it hard to pick up the pace. Atherton were brighter than us and deserved their half-time lead, but we responded in the second half and managed to up our tempo.
“We were lucky to get a draw, even though we were on the attack most of the second half”.
It was a tough encounter too for referee Dave McNamara, a Royal Navy officer who had driven down from a submarine base in Scotland to take charge of the game.
Gate complete their season at home to Barnoldswick Town on Saturday.
Gate: Beesley, Thomas, Horn, Bartlett, Taylor, Benfield, Dixon, Fishwick, L Mayers, Bennett, Harries; subs: McKenna, Miller, McKendrick, Cragg.
n AFC Blackpool stopped the rot after four successive premier division defeats with a goal in each half at Bacup.
Strikes by defender Kevan Ford (22 minutes) and former Blackpool youth striker Billy McKenna (70) lifted Stuart Parker’s side to eighth ahead of Saturday’s final game at Runcorn Town.