The Rams came into this New Years Day fixture with half their league fixtures still to play and knowing that it they are able to double their points total to date, they will be close to the play-off positions.  Unfortunately, the form that has presented them with such a promising start to the Premier Division is proving elusive at the moment and the hope that the turn of the year would present a change to December’s misfortunes was misplaced.

Injuries and suspensions are not helping and with the fullest respect to them, it is never a good sign when both of the joint managers are needed to fill out the substitutes bench.  Nonetheless in what was a pretty dreary opening period, the Rams started the brighter and when on 14 minutes Jon Robinson seized on a loose cross field ball skated round the Nantwich keeper and rolled the ball into the net, a repeat of the recent cup win was very much on the cards.

The Rams though were finding it difficult to achieve any penetration down the flanks which is another bad sign of pending problems.

The nearest they came to scoring again in the first half was a Grant Spencer free kick on the half hour which was well saved.  Immediately after, though, Nantwich equalised when a shot through a crowded area following a cleared corner caught out Grant Shenton who could only palm the ball into the path of Aaron Burns.  His scuffed effort rolled slowly into the net despite Tom Williams’ best efforts to clear.

From there, it went from bad to worse.  Steve Jones was completely unmarked seven minutes later and had the easiest tap in to put the home team in front.  Then, with only a couple of minutes remaining in the first half, the advantage the Rams would have had of the strong wind in the second half was nullified when Gary Stopforth was sent off after over stretching into a tackle.  There was no apparent intent and the red card was, to say the least, harsh.

To their credit the Rams came out fighting.  They rolled the dice by pushing Steve Howson up front and forced the home team deep but struggled to manufacture a clear opening.  It was inevitable that gaps would open up at the other end.  Jones became increasingly influential and having spurned a glorious chance at the far post on the hour, he dispossessed Robinson and found Burns unmarked in the area.  His fierce cross shot whistled past Shenton.

The Rams though refused to lie down, effectively playing with just two at the back.  Jordan Hulme was twice denied by the keeper with 15 minutes left and five minutes later Phil Dean scored confidently from the spot when Howson was pushed from behind when about to head in.  No red card there then, ref?

They continued to battle away bravely with Matthew Davies, on as a substitute looking more than a promising acquisition from Atherton LR.  As the game slipped into time added on, his cross was met by Hulme whose header seemed goal bound but somehow floated wide and that was that.

Plenty of perspiration but a lack of inspiration.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Jordan Hulme, George Grayson, Gary Stopforth, Steven Howson, Cedric Krou, Osebi Abadaki, Scott Burton, Tom Williams, Jon Robinson, Grant Spencer.  Subs: Phil Dean (for Abadaki 45mins), Anthony Johnson, Matthew Davies (for Williams 67mins), Malachi Slaven (for Spencer 67mins), Bernard Morley.

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