A disastrous second half proved to be the undoing of a Rams side that had looked comfortable in the first 45 minutes, and had deservedly gone in at the break in front.
What happened after that break takes some explaining.
The home side looked the more accomplished from the start, and Jordan Hulme’s fine burst into the area was only stopped by a fine save from Town keeper Terry Smith, diving low to his right.
The same forward almost got on the end of a long punt from keeper Grant Shenton, but he couldn’t quite deflect the ball goalwards, but it was no surprise when Hulme laid on the opening goal. It came on 21 minutes, and the youngster floated over the perfect cross from the right, leaving Jon Robinson with the simplest of headers from close range to give the Rams a deserved lead.
Osebi Abadaki came close to opening his account for the club, firstly with a fierce drive from 25 yards which Smith did well to smother, and then from close range, but his effort sailed inches wide.
Whilst the home side were enjoying much of the possession and chances, Nantwich looked lively, with lanky winger Vinney Mukendi a constant threat. Twice he was denied, as was defender Adam Jones, who looked on as his looped header hit the bar before being scrambled to safety.
But as the half-time whistle blew, the one goal lead was a deserved reward for an accomplished performance from the Rams.
Joint-manager Bernard Morley was happy enough at the interval. “All we need now is to keep a clean sheet in the second half” he suggested.
What followed made a mockery of that wish.
Nantwich came out refreshed and determined to improve on their early showing.
After Grant Spencer had showed encouraging signs of adding to the lead, on a couple of occasions, the visitors took complete control of the game, with the home side wilting and apparently short of ideas as to how to combat their opponents.
The equalising goal came after 52 minutes. The ever-dangerous Mukendi slipped the ball neatly to Alex Meaney, and he finished from close range to level the match.
Two goals in three minutes completely turned the game, and the Rams rarely looked like finding a way back.
On 59 minutes, Mukendi profited from some hesitant defending by poking the ball home between two dithering defenders, from almost on the goal-line. Barely had the visiting supporters stopped celebrating than they were cheering a third. A quick-fire attack split the home defence and as the ball was played into space, Mark Winslade made no mistake from ten yards out.
On 65 minutes the Rams task was made almost impossible as they went down to ten men. Having had a running battle, and a couple of warnings from the referee, Robinson head-butted an opponent in back play, which was spotted by the referee’s assistant, and out came the red card.
Max Harrop had the ball in the net five minutes later for the visitors, but it was ruled out for offside.
However, the former Bury youngster’s run into the box on 88 minutes was unceremoniously ended by the diving Shenton, leaving the referee with little choice than to award a penalty. Another red card was feared, but the official chose the lenient route and produced just a yellow for Shenton. Up stepped Adam Pepper to fire home the spot-kick to give the Dabbers a 4-1 lead.
There was still time, however, for a second red card to be produced. This time it went the way of Hulme. He was cautioned after complaining about Robinson’s dismissal, but a foul in the second minute of time added on, brought another yellow and with it the inevitable dismissal.
So a game that began so brightly for the Rams deteriorated into arguably the worst 45 minutes in the managerial spell of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley.
The lack of ideas and discipline will need to be addressed quickly as the team gets to grip with life at the higher level, especially with some big games coming up.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Smalley, Abadaki(Krou 71mins0, Spencer(Cook 71mins), Howson, Priestley, Hulme, Burton, Robinson, Pilkington, Dean. Subs not used: Williams, Slaven, Morley