The coronavirus which hit the country in March, put an unexpected end to a season that was building up to a fascinating finale.
As the FA decided to “null and void” the season, the Rams were on a run of League form that had seen them defeated just once in seventeen matches, a run that had seen them rise from mid-table to second place, ten points behind Workington, but with three games in hand.
Hopes were high after an important victory over in Crosby against Marine, that the title could well be in our sights, but such dreams were devastatingly snatched away.
However, whilst we are talking of disappointments on the football pitch, outside issues concerning the virus rightly took precedence, and whilst the frustration of all concerned with the Rams was evident, football had to come second, and so we draw a line under what had been a highly entertaining campaign.
Having been knocked out in the play-off stages the previous May, the new campaign, under manager Chris Willcock who was now preparing for his first full season in charge, began in optimistic style.
A 3-2 home win on the opening day of the season against Widnes was followed days later with another three points up in Pickering. A third successive league victory at home to Trafford had us vying with the early table leaders, but a downturn in form saw the team gain just two victories in their next eight league fixtures, as the slide down the table saw us fall into an anonymous mid-table slot.
During that time the Rams suffered a couple of humiliating away defeats. A lack-lustre performance at high-flying Workington saw the team make a miserable long journey home on the back of a 1-5 defeat, which followed an even heavier reversal the week before in the FA Cup up at National League North side Gateshead.
So having disposed of lower league opposition in Winsford United (after a replay) and Maltby Main, an anticipated run in the FA Cup failed to materialise, whilst more disappointingly, so did a run in the FA Trophy competition which had seen the club into the last sixteen the season before. This time local rivals Colne came to town and ended our interest at the first attempt with a 1-3 defeat.
The worrying lack of form and inconsistency saw a number of loan players depart, and manager Willcock brought in a number of new signings in an effort to steady the ship. After another disappointing loss against another east Lancashire in
Clitheroe, the next home game against promotion-chasing Marine at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium seemed to turn the corner.
Trailing 1-4 at the interval, the team came out for the second half with a renewed spirt, and clawed their way back to 3-4, desperately unlucky not to rescue a point that would have been more than justified.
That new outlook began to take hold, and suddenly performances improved dramatically.
A draw at home to Runcorn Linnets followed before an excellent and gritty performance garnered all three points away at Prescot Cables.
Ten more league games passed before the team would taste defeat again.
The confidence such a run produces also saw some free-flowing football rewarded by a pan-full of goals.
The whole team responded with strikes hitting the back of the net from all angles.
Five goals were scored in quick succession in three home games against City of Liverpool, a Marske United team only previously beaten once in the league, and local rivals Droysden. After a relatively tame draw on the plastic pitch at Widnes, Mossley felt the full force of the rejuvenated team when they arrived in Ramsbottom on Boxing Day, only to return to Tameside on the back of a 7-1 thrashing.
That was the first of five successive victories that saw the team shoot up the table. Local rivals Trafford fell on their own ground on New Years Day, whilst Pickering Town were despatched at home followed by an excellent 5-2 win in Bootle against City of Liverpool – the second time the Merseysiders had conceded five goals against the Rams. Two late goals saw a rather fortunate three points gained at Brighouse Town, before the impressive run was temporarily halted after a long Tuesday night trip to Dunston.
Within days that disappointment had been forgotten. League leaders Workington arrived at the HWRS, and in a stark reminder as to how the team’s fortunes had changed since that miserable trip to the Cumbrian coast in September, the Rams put the leaders firmly in their place with a performance that only ended up 2-0, but in reality could have seen another five goals notched.
That victory in front of a season-best crowd of 622 saw the clubs swap places, and Ramsbottom United sat proudly on top of the table.
Two easy 3-0 wins, away to Droylsden and at home to Tadcaster Albion, cemented that place as everyone at the HWRS began to look towards the end of the season with much optimism. Workington, Marine and Pontefract Collieries (who had a number of games in hand) were breathing down the team’s necks, but such was the confidence that it was a case of “let them catch us”.
Alas, the wettest February on record allowed the Cumbrian side to do just that, as one can only assume the rain did not come down quite as hard up in the far north west. Workington overtook the Rams to regain top spot and despite winning the only two league games to take place between 8th February and 16th March, when the season was brought to an abrupt halt (away to Kendal and that exciting game at fellow promotion hopefuls Marine), the table-toppers had by then extended the gap at the top to the afore-mentioned ten points.
Despite the hope that promotion could still be achieved, one way or another, all at the club had to eventually accept that the efforts of everyone connected with Ramsbottom United had ultimately been in vain.
The fact that the team had suffered just one solitary defeat in the league since 2nd November proved just what an attractive side had been put together.
After the mixed start, it was generally acknowledged that this was the best Ramsbottom United team since the promotion days of Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson.
Goals were scored almost at will, and nicely spread amongst the whole of the team. The Northern Premier League acknowledged the efforts of the players by naming Ramsbottom United “North West Division Team of the Month” on two separate occasions.
The attacking formation had produced some excellent performances, with the biggest average attendance at the ground for quite a few seasons.
With six more home games scheduled, and the possibility of a couple of play-off games should Workington not have been over-hauled, then that average could have risen even higher. However, it all came to nothing, and despite the enjoyment over those eight months, it’s a case of “how you were” as we look forward to another attempt at gaining promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, whenever football is given the go-ahead to resume.
Whenever that is, the supporters of the Rams will be looking forward to another campaign with optimism and enthusiasm as the club looks to rectify the disappointment felt as a result of that unseen virus.
As the 2019-20 season has now ended, Chairman Harry Williams and the Committee of Ramsbottom United would like to place on record it’s appreciation of everyone who has helped the club throughout the season.
Our thanks to the management team and players for producing such great entertainment and enjoyment.
To our Main Sponsor, Rosebridge, for their considerable support, and to all the other companies and individuals who have also sponsored matches.
To those companies that have taken adverts around the ground and in various publications such as the matchday programme and fixtures chart.
To those who have gladly given up their time to help on the pitch and around the ground to maintain the high standards set at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.
To the helpers on match days, selling programmes, raffle tickets, golden goals and anything else in an attempt to encourage supporters to part with their cash!
To the members of the media side of the club, who photograph and film matches, and the reporters and radio commentators, whose efforts help raise the profile of the club.
To anyone else who has given their time and in many cases cash to ensure the future of Ramsbottom United continues to look bright.
And finally, to the ever-growing band of supporters, without whom the whole exercise would be pointless!
Many thanks to all the above….much too many to name individually, but you all know who you are!