A pulsating match which will have pleased the visiting fans and any neutrals in the crowd but will have left the home support as despondent as they were wet in the driving rain.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 3 CLITHEROE 4
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 21 February 2017
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Clitheroe are a good team and a tight result on a difficult surface was always going to be on the cards so the fact that the Rams came out on the wrong end of a seven goal thriller should not be taken as cause for an assertion that the recent run of results was more mirage than promise of arrival in the NPL oasis. The fact though is that other than in the opening 10 minutes or so the Rams were never able to exert any sustained control and that on the night Clitheroe were very much smarter and on balance worth the win.
On a night when defending was always going to be a challenge it was no surprise that the opening goal came in just three minutes. Ryan Salmon’s downward header from a free kick bagatelled between any number of shins, knees and ankles before ricocheting into the net.
Playing with pace the Rams had the visitors back four in crisis mode and were unfortunate not to double their lead when Gareth Seddon, released by the impressive Max Hazeldine, by far the Rams most dangerous attacker on the night, saw his cross shot defeat the keeper but go just wide.
After that the Rams pace dropped and Clitheroe came back strongly into the game. Luke Wall swapped wings and the rapid Dimitri Tuanzebe became a threat whenever in possession. The equalizer just past the half hour was greeted by an acceptance of the inevitable – Wall finding space at the far post to fire in low past Martin Fearon. Such was the flow of the game the Rams were content to go into the interval level but in fact would have been in front had Seddon not put a penalty, somewhat softly awarded, the wrong side of the post.
The next goal was always going to be crucial and when Clitheroe scored twice in the space of three minutes just short of the hour and then for a period of five minutes had a disorganized Rams team in a state of stasis it looked like a rout might be on the cards. There were more than remote echoes of the defeat in similar conditions against Colne with the visitors moving the ball securely out from the back while the Rams lingered too often on it taking the extra seconds or steps which allowed Clitheroe defenders to block space and close off runs.
The first of those goals came when Citheroe made full use of a very good advantage allowed by the referee to put Kurt Willoughby free on the edge of the area. His shot hit with force seemed at first to be flying wide but to the astonishment of Fearon found the inside of the far post. The Rams had not recovered from the shock before Wall dunked in from the opposite side and curled an exquisite shot past Fearon.
To their credit the Rams weathered the storm and never gave up. Hazeldine escaped regularly down the right without result other than corners from one of which the Rams clawed a goal back from a Paul Linwood shot into the roof of the net.
It was then the time for Clitheroe to look panicked. From another corner Chris Thompson did well to tip a Luke Thompson header round the post. At this stage the Rams were able to inject some pace back into their attacks and with 15 minutes left drew level. Darrhyll Mason forced his way into the box, got his head up and his neat pull back picked out Seddon who did well to release a controlled shot into the empty net.
The mayhem never looked like ending there. The game took its final twist with 10 minutes left. Grant Spencer was sent off for the last of a series of niggling fouls. Walls free kick from 25 yards went through the wall, took a deflection and left Fearon stranded to give the winger his second and his team all three points.
Ramsbottom United: Martin Fearon, Reagan Ogle, Matthew Atherton, Dean Stott, Luke Thompson, Paul Linwood, Max Hazeldine, Grant Spencer, Ryan Salmon, Gareth Seddon (capt), Darrhyl Mason. Subs: Bradley Roscoe (for Stott 61mins), Nathan Webb (for Salmon 82mins), Oliver Crankshaw (for Seddon 90mins), Damian Green, Adam Kay.
Clitheroe: Chris Thompson, Ryan Ellison, Gareth Roberts, Ian Rowlands, Daniel Brady (capt), Charlie Russell, Joseph Mitchell, Bradley Carroll, Dimitri Tuanzebe, Kurt Willoughby, Luke Wall. Subs: Chris Churchman (for Carroll 72mins), Jacob Davies (for Ellison 45mins), Alexander Newby (for Tuanzebe 72mins), Ryan Cattermole, Robbie Bromley.
Referee: Thomas Kirk (Altrincham)