The curse of the Lairds struck again as the Wirral visitors completed a quick-fire double over the play-off chasers, meaning that after four games, the Rams have yet to beat Cammell Laird.

Not that there was any lack of effort, for the hosts ran the game for the most part, but their opponent’s defence held firm as the usually free-scoring Rams failed to find the net in a league game for the first time since last August.

The early loss of inspirational midfielder Scott Burton hardly helped the cause. A tough tackle that went unpunished left the player with an open gash that required substantial treatment, and he was substituted after just 15 minutes.

The Rams, though, still had much of the possession but despite controlling the game for long spells, they failed to find a way through Laird’s resolute defence, and, particularly in the first half, rarely looked like scoring.

Visiting keeper Mike Langley had to cut out a dangerous cross from Grant Spencer, with Phil Dean and Lee Gaskell lurking for a loose ball, and he had to be alert when a snap-shot from Spencer looked like sneaking in by his left-hand post.

In fairness, the visitors also failed to trouble the Rams defence for the most part, but gained a foot-hold on 34 minutes via the penalty spot.

Substitute Tommy Toth was adjudged to have brought down Laird’s Craig Cairns as both players chased a ball that looked like going out of play. Jamie Henders gratefully accepted the chance to open the scoring by blasting the spot-kick home, and for all their effort, the Rams found themselves one goal down.

The second half began with some exerted pressure from the home side as they went in search of an equaliser. Gaskell was presented with an opportunity when he was on the receiving end of an intended back pass, but he couldn’t find the spot, whilst the same forward was inches away from converting an excellent left-wing cross from Dean.

United were made to pay for the missed chances on 57 minutes when Cammell doubled their advantage.

A superbly struck free-kick saw home keeper Grant Shenton produce a magnificent save as he deflected the ball onto the crossbar. The defenders then appeared uncertain as to how to clear the danger, and the confusion allowed John Couch to make them pay by firing the loose ball home from just inside the area.

Gaskell should have reduced the arrears ten minutes later when he inexplicably struck the bar when it looked easier to score, then Spencer found Langley in the right place to deny him from close range.

On 73 minutes the visitors should have added a third.

With the Rams committed to attack, Laird broke down the left. An inch-perfect low cross from Cairns found an unmarked Henders at the far post, but the normally reliable striker somehow managed to slice the ball high and wide.

A long-range effort from Billy Priestley sailed harmlessly wide, whilst substitute player-manager Anthony Johnson couldn’t get his head onto an inviting looping lob from Spencer.

The Laird held on quite comfortably to produce a minor shock and put a dent in Ramsbottom’s promotion ambitions.

For all their possession, it turned out to be one of those days when nothing seemed to come off for the Rams, and they must be glad to see the back of Cammell Laird for at least one more season.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Shenton, Smalley, Pilkington, Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Spencer, Burton(Toth 16mins, Green 68mins), Gaskell(Johnson 77mins), Hulme, Dean. Sub not used: Morley

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