There has never been much doubt that the Rams have some very talented young footballers – unfortunately they have been too many in number, inexperienced and physically slight to compete or survive in the NPL. On Saturday though they came up against another team which if anything was even younger and more lightweight and dominated the game from first to last. As one of the long suffering Rams faithful commented after the match, it was boys against boys and the game was no worse off for that.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 4 (yes, FOUR!!) ILKESTON 0
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 23 April 2016
Fed by a series of well directed passes from deep, Danny Wilkins and Bevan Burey had a merry time all afternoon exploiting a lack of pace down the left side of the Ilkeston defence and it was a surprise that it took the Rams 37 minutes to gain ascendancy when following persistence from Wilkins in the box, the ball fell kindly to Burey who buried the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
Despite the Rams comfort and control, Ilkeston could easily have been in front themselves at that stage if not for a flying save, the last of very many from Grant Shenton in his last game for the club, which saw the keeper turn a firm header up and onto the bar. That though was Ilkeston’s only sustained effort on goal in the whole 90 minutes and when Alex Meaney drove a low shot just inside the post from 25 yards on the stroke of half time the Rams were put firmly in control.
They went on to enjoy that superiority for the remainder of the match with a performance marred only by an insistence too often to dwell on the ball and under pressure deliver the odd hospital ball. But there were many pleasing performances – from the central defenders and Jack Lever making his debut at full back as a substitute for an injured Robbie Bromley. The game cruised along without too much incident until just past the hour when first Wilkins ran clear of a somnolent Ilkeston defence and calmly shot into the corner and then within a couple of minutes Jake Cliffe forced his way to the by-line and found John Pritchard at the far post who forced the ball in from a narrow angle.
All that was left was for Wilkins to break clear again, the Ilkeston defence by this time reduced from somnolent to catatonic, neatly lob the keeper from 30 yards only to see the ball bounce onto and over the bar. And then Phil Edghill, making a final final cameo appearance he says (but he has had more retirements than Frank Sinatra) saw a goal bound header also bounce over. That would have been a nice gloss to a fine career.
So that was the end of the Rams 50th season marked by the clubs first ever relegation – a magnificent but equally sad achievement built on the efforts of one man. At the end of season awards immediately after the game, swept up by Grant Shenton and Alex Meaney and deservedly so, the Chairman commented on the financial realities facing the club, the difficulty of finding committed people to give their time freely and the fact that the club was never really ready for the NPL on any level.
All very true but promotion to the NPL was not a total surprise and there was never any movement in the direction of being ready for it – and as to committed helpers – well commitment is a two way process and to requires trust, empowerment and effective leadership. To divot or not to divot – that is not the question!
Ramsbottom United: Grant Shenton (capt), Robbie Bromley (Jack Lever 38mins), Luke Heron, Dylan Smith, Nia Bayunu, Zack Hargreaves (Aaron Smith 63mins), Bevan Burey, Jake Cliffe (Phil Edghill 83mins), Daniel Wilkins, Alex Meaney, John Pritchard. Subs not used: Joe Shaw, Andrew Smart.
Goals: Bevan Burey (41mins), Alex Meaney (45mins), Daniel Wilkins (65mins), John Pritchard (67mins)
Ilkeston: Jahquil Hill, Aiden Print, Ryan Head, Max Thornberry, Matt Baker (capt), Haydn Goddard, Luke Shaw (David Jones 77mins), Danny Gordon, Curtis Burrows, Dexter Atkinson (Roy Lee 63mins), Luis Rose (Brandon Clarke 82mins). Subs not used: Ben Morris, Tevahn Tyrell.
Referee: Aaron Jackson (Prescot)