Report by Tony Cunningham

Scoring four goals away from home usually guarantees victory, but when the opponents have netted eighteen times in their first five games, the warning signs should have shining brightly.

If they were, then they were ignored as a dire defensive performance saw the Rams exit the FA Cup at the first hurdle in an enthralling game that had the fans of both sides hanging on until the final whistle.

It was the visitors who looked the more composed, and some of their football was a joy to watch, yet those defensive frailties hit home early, and with twenty minutes played, and against the run of play, the home side found themselves two goals to the good.

A loose ball on the left-hand side of the Rams defence was pounced upon by Paul Turner, and he coolly rolled the ball past the helpless Tom Stewart to open the scoring on ten minutes.

The visitors hit back, with Domaine Rouse skying the ball over from a Jake Thompson cross, swiftly followed by a blockbuster from Danny O’Brien which crashed back into play off the home crossbar.

But the comeback was swiftly halted on nineteen minutes when a hanging cross from a free kick on the right was nodded back across goal and there was the diminutive Turner, unmarked by the near post to double the lead.

Joel Earps had a couple of efforts from distance for the Rams, which sailed wide, before a threaded ball into the area found Domaine Rouse, who hammered home from an acute angle just before the break to half the deficit.

 The same player thought he had equalised moments later when his blast from the six-yard line somehow took a deflection and sailed over for a corner.

Despite having enjoyed more possession, the team went in at half-time with words from the manager ringing in their ears, but if they were expected to make a point, within three minutes of the restart, the two-goal cushion returned.

 More calamitous defending allowed Turner plenty of space to drive home a cross and notch his hat-trick.

 On 53 minutes, the Rams again reduced the arrears, and this time the strike by Rouse will already be a contender for goal-of-the-season.

 A corner was only partially cleared, and with his back to goal, ten yards out, Rouse blasted a superb bicycle kick over his head that flew into the back of the net like an Exocet missile.

 Game on again?

 Not so. Within two minutes the Rams Achilles heal reappeared and another cross saw the Rams defenders flat-footed, gifting Gareth Hill time at the far post to notch yet another for the rampant home side.

On 67 minutes, a further corner caused confusion enabling Hill, once more, to pounce unannounced and tap home number five.

Despite the possession and quality of some of the football played by the Rams, the game looked well beyond them thanks to their woeful defending, yet they refused to lie down.

Eddie Cooper, who put in a sterling performance, glanced a header goalwards, only to see it deflect off the head of a home defender and over the bar, but the visitors continued to push and probe, and on 72 minutes, some trickery on the right-hand side by Thomson finally saw the winger send in a low cross which was gleefully tucked home from close range by the unmarked Richie Baker.

Rouse and Cooper both had worthy efforts turned over, although by pressing forward, the Rams fragile defence was exposed more than once, the home side failed to take a couple of one-on-ones which would have put the game out of sight.

As it was, on 85 minutes, the visitors notched a fourth, this time Cooper deservedly finding his way on to the score-sheet with a blistering drive from a half-cleared corner.

Seven minutes were added on, and the closest the Rams came to salvaging a draw saw Regan Grace send his header inches wide, as the Rams attack went into over-drive.

Alas, despite the efforts upfront, the failure at the back proved to be the telling point, and a game that must have been a thriller for the neutral fan, proved to be a nightmare for the Rams, and Barnoldswick duly progressed to the next round of the FA Cup.

Manager Lee Donafee was naturally seething.

“I’m heartbroken”, he confessed. “We handed them the game. Defensively we beat ourselves by being too soft at the back. They didn’t have to work hard to beat us. Sloppy defending has definitely cost us, it was like schoolboy defending.

“ Credit to Barnoldswick but we should have defended a lot better”

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Stewart, Collinge, Kennedy, Waldron, Hall (Beckford 80mins), Cooper, Thompson, Earps (Osi-Efa 52mins), Rouse, Baker, O’Brien (Jarrett 60mins), Subs not used: Glover, Phillips

Leave a comment