What is to be made of this confounding and, to no little extent, concerning result?
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 RUSHALL OLYMPIC 3
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 17 February 2015
From the Rams perspective, this was not so much a game to two halves, more a game of two teams. Such was the contrast in performance in the first and second sets of 45 minutes that a comparison with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would make the latter schizophrenic personality appear like a model of normality!
Despite again donating an early lead through careless protection of the ball in their defensive third of the pitch, the Rams served up a first 45 minutes of vibrant dynamic football. Grant Shenton could count himself very hard done by to concede having dived bravely at the feet of Aaron Williams at point blank range only to see the ball ricochet up and present the centre forward with the easiest of headers in. That goal was very much against the run of play. For 20 minutes Donal McDermott on the left had threatened to eviscerate the Rushall defence with darting runs and step overs (although sometimes a step over too far). Osebi Abadaki had one of those purple patches in which defenders are incapable of getting a legal touch to him. And on 23 minutes he was sent clear by a smart ball inside the full-back from Lee Gaskell and his pinpoint centre hit at pace met with an imperious header in from Jame Rother.
For the rest of the half, it was just a question of when the Rams, driven on by an imposing Matt Burke, would score again. The second goal came on 40 minutes when Gaskell prodded in almost on the line after the ball had somehow squirmed to him following Rushall failing to clear a corner. All seemed set fair but the game and the evening turned sour just a minute into the second half.
Rushall launched a rapid counter attack from virtually their own corner flag and sent a low ball down the left hand channel. From the moment George Bowyer and Alex Reid set out in pursuit, the signs were ominous. Like Seb Coe reeling in Steve Ovett in Moscow, the inevitability of Read getting to the ball first was all too apparent and so he did, neatly slipping his shot past Shenton.
Deflating as the equaliser was, it took a few minutes for the deterioration in the Rams performance to set in. Ten minutes later, a swerving dipping free kick from McDermott was virtually in the top corner only to be diverted onto the angle by a desperate finger tip from Rushall keeper Ryan Price – a truly wondrous save. That was the last moment of optimism for the Rams.
The visitors sat deeper, cut off any supply to the wings and through Carl Palmer and Josh Craddock, two old fashioned operatives in the middle, controlled the game. The Rams were unable to provide any menace or presence up front resorting increasingly to hopeless high balls.
With 20 minutes left, a clever free kick sent Reid clear again, this time on the right and his shot across the face of the goal found the inside of the post and in. A real sucker punch. And that was that – but for all the disappointment there was enough in the first half to give promise of better days as the weather and pitches improve – but clear signs of where the performance needs to be strengthened.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton (capt), George Bowyer, Lee Pugh, Matthew Burke, Luke Heron, Callum Jones, Osebi Abadaki, Jamie Rother, Lee Gaskell, Chris Baguley, Donal McDermott. Subs: Tom Hartley (for Abadaky 80mins), Tom Brooks (for Baguley 69mins), George Grayson, Kyle Harrop (for McDermott 80mins), Jordan Lazenbury.
Goals: Jamie Rother (23), Lee Gaskell (40)