An eagerly awaited contest between two of the league’s form teams ultimately produced a match lacking in the usual fluency and entertainment expected from these two sides.
Both sides gave the opposition little time on the ball resulting in a hurried error-strewn contest which appeared to be heading for a deserved draw until a late intervention from referee John Walton.
With just seven minutes to go, and the scores level at one apiece Billy Priestley beat a Brig forward to the ball in the area, and slid it away as his opponent’s momentum saw him go to ground. The official pointed to the spot, with the Rams’ defenders rightly incensed. His blunder offered substitute Jerome Watt the opportunity to gleefully stroke the spot kick home and clinch the three points that neither side deserved on the day.
Even the home side’s first goal was contentious.
On 26 minutes, a corner from the right ricocheted around the six yard box, before the linesman signalled that at some point it had crossed the line. After consultation with Mr Walton, the goal was given.
Up to that point the game had been rather scrappy, and it never really recovered over the whole ninety minutes, due in part to a heavy surface and the windy conditions.
Two minutes after the goal, the Rams were almost level when Dominic Smalley headed over an Owen Roberts corner, but three minutes later, parity was restored.
A perfectly flighted cross from the left by Darren Green fell invitingly for Danny Warrender and he dived low to power a header inside the left hand post to make it 1-1.
A well-struck Roberts’ free-kick was well held by Steve James in the home goal, whilst one of the few fluent moves, involving Smalley and Lee Gaskell, saw Grant Spencer unable to direct his header goalwards.
Grant Shenton, in the visitors goal was almost left red-faced early in the second half, when his poor clearance was instantly returned with the keeper out of position, but, luckily for him, it sailed just wide of the post.
Shenton was almost caught out again when Matt Lawlor beat him to a free-kick, but saw his header clear the bar.
A cross-cum-shot from Smalley just cleared the bar, before Gaskell was denied when his free-kick was held by the foot of the post by the diving James.
At the other end, a fine cross from Brig winger Chris Marlow was nodded inches wide by Tom Williams, but clear-cut chances were hard to come by as both sides appeared to cancel one another out.
Then, with the clock ticking down came the moment of controversy which handed the points to the home side.
It was to prove to be an unlucky thirteen for the Rams as their twelve match unbeaten league run came to an end in unfortunate circumstances, made worse by the fact that Warrender was sent off in the dying minutes for a second yellow card.
After such an encouraging run, it’s down to the team to shake off this disappointment and set off on another charge towards the play-offs.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Lomax, Roberts, Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Smalley, Spencer(Pilkington 64mins), Gaskell(Brooks 64mins), Green, Dean. Subs not used: Toth, Edghill, Johnson