It could have come as no surprise that two teams who had so far scored and conceded 101 goals between them already this season would serve up another multi-goal extravaganza in which attacking flair and panache was matched by some clueless and incoherent defending.
All teams like to play at home, of course, but the Rams seem to have a particular affinity for their tight Riverside pitch on which they carve out quality space and openings around the box that can elude them on larger grounds.
Phil Dean, who has had a bit of a frustrating time of it so far this season lit the touch paper to a tumultuous first 20 minutes in which defending amounted to a dance of the seven veils with each team contriving to denude their goalkeepers of cover and support.
On 3 minutes, a neat inter-change between Dominic Smalley and Osebi Abadaki ripped asunder the Belper defence and Dean slid in at the far post. Minutes later, it was the turn of the Rams’ defence to fall into a collective amnesia to populate their penalty area giving Jon Froggatt all the time and space in the world to equalise.
Dean then brought the ground to its feet with a thunderous shot from all of 35 yards that left a startled James Martin in the Belper goal floundering and flapping like a hooked salmon as the ball crashed into the top corner. Back came Belper, looking anything but a bottom of the table team – but who does in this division? Grant Shenton tipped over before more ambiguous defending allowing Froggatt to steal into the area. Cedric Krou hooked his feet away, received an unarguable red card and Ross scored from the penalty spot.
It took a little time for the Rams to reorganise but assisted by some broken play littered by niggling fouls, they neutralised the visitors efforts to take advantage of the extra man. Dean, now repositioned at left back, continued to cause a threat out wide. As the half-time whistle beckoned, Abadaki, a muscular menace, ghosted in on his astute low ball from the left and neatly guided the ball round the keeper into the bottom corner to restore a well earned lead.
From then, the Rams never looked like being a man short, defending comfortably as Aaron Cole, a threat on the right for the visitors, started to fade and looking dangerous on the counter attack, Scott Burton and Gary Stopforth matched elegance with hard work in the middle.
Clever substitutions by the Rams midway through the half bolstered some flagging legs. Jordan Hulme released Tom Williams into acres of space although James Martin did well to tip his shot around the post. And Jon Robinson, being cleverly used as an impact player to close out games, headed Hulme’s deep cross neatly back across the keeper to give a two-goal cushion and the Rams cruised the last 15 minutes to jump back into the play-off places in fifth.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Joel Pilkington, Gary Stopforth, Steven Howson, Cedric Krou, Osebi Abadaki, Scott Burton, Jordan Hulme, Grant Spencer, Phil Dean. Subs: Tom Williams (for Abadaki 66), Nelson Mota, Malachi Slaven, Jon Robinson (for Spencer 71), Lee Gaskell (for Hulme 90).
Photos: available from www.rmdirect.org/rammy (photo credit to Callum Rigg)