Compared with the previous three games, even in continuing defeat, this was an improved performance from the Rams and one which offered at least a shard of optimism of awakening from the nightmare.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1 ILKESTON 2
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
28 February 2015
Attendance: 290

However, now five games in the shortcomings in the new regime’s valiant attempts at squad reconstruction are all too plain to see and there has to be a question whether the squad is good enough for the level the Rams are competing in.  The over-riding sense is one of lack of pace, mobility and composure both in attack and defence.  When the opposition have the ball, the pitch looks big and when the Rams have it, it is all too easy for them to make it look small.

Ilkeston are a good young footballing team but a little lightweight and might have been made to struggle more on a heavy pitch.  For the first 30 minutes, not much of anything happened.  Ilkeston had the ball but did little with it while the Rams threat on goal came from sporadic sallies down the right flank by Osebi Abadaki.  That changed on the half hour when Joe Maguire was allowed to glide into the box unchallenged to meet a James Reid free kick.  His firm downward header was superbly saved with his feet by Grant Shenton but he could do no more than divert it back into Maguire’s path and present him with the easiest of tap ins.

For the next 15 minutes, Ilkeston attacked at will carving out openings.  Only a succession of brave saves by Shenton prevented them not only from regaining the lead but taking a commanding lead.  Then, against the run of play, the Rams fashioned an equaliser.  Luke Heron seemed deceptively off the pace in reaching an astute ball from Chris Baguley but suddenly he was on the end of it and sent a smart cross shot past Jordan Smith.  The keeper did well to get a hand to it and for agonising milliseconds, the ball hovered between spinning in and out from the foot of the post before rolling in.

Ilkeston are a team who want, indeed are only capable of, playing out from the back.  The Rams pushed up and by dint of catching the visitors defenders in possession and trying to be too cute for a time, looked like they might go on not to win.  Smith did well on two occasions to divert dangerous crosses from the desparing head of Lee Gaskell and was well beaten by a drive from Baguley which went inches the wrong side of the post.  The Rams though were always vulnerable to the pace of Ilkeston’s attacks with the full-backs horribly exposed and it was no surprise that they retook the lead with 15 minutes left.  A rash tackle inside the box on Jake Wright resulted in a penalty.  Reid stepped up, Shenton guessed correctly, got a firm hand to the ball but the shot had too much pace on it to prevent in finding the inside of the net.

So that leaves the Rams without a win now since the end of November in league action and makes the home game against struggling Trafford on Tuesday evening a must win game.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton (capt), Kyle Harrop, Lee Pugh, Matthew Burke, Jon Robinson, Callum Jones, Osebi Abadaki, Jamie Rother, Lee Gaskell, Chris Baguley, Luke Heron.  Subs: Phil Edghill, Tom Hartley, Tom Brooks (for Burke 80mins), Malachi Slaven (for Abadaki 70mins), Michael Smith.
Goals: Luke Heron (45)

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