For the time time this season, after a troubling week off the pitch, there was a sense of lack of optimism and collapse in morale on the terraces on Saturday which somehow transmitted itself into a nervous performance on the pitch.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1 HALESOWEN TOWN 1
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 11 April 2015
Attendance: 242

The feeling of foreboding and almost helplessness was not helped by the visitors taking the lead after just five minutes with a soft goal that left the Rams defenders arguing amongst themselves over culpability for giving Iyesden Christie too much space to execute an elegant scissor kick and then immobility which presented Joseph Hull with all the time he needed to knock in the rebound from Grant Shenton’s save.

If Halesowen had had a more Draculaesque taste for the jugular, they could easily have taken control of the game but instead were content to sit back and allow the Rams into the game.  Slowly but surely they gained momentum and confidence and by half time could and should have been level.  On the half hour, Lee Gaskell thought he had scored by saw his lob over Matt Sargeant bounce out off the inside of the post and then the keeper did well to beat out a fierce shot from Vinny Mukendi.

It is surprising that the big towering centre forward seems to cause more problems for defences on the ground than in the air – the ball at times bouncing around as if tied to his feet by a 3 foot length of elastic, confusing defenders and team mates alike.  As the game progressed, his runs at through and over the Halesowen defence caused increasing deperate measures of resistance culminating in a wild body check on him by Curtis Tilt which would have had a wrestling audience howling but left the referee unmoved in the face of screams for a penalty.

Prompted by an excellent Matt Burke who looked more mobile that he has in recent matches, the Rams pressed forward but in the way of all teams in desperate need of a result the ball would not fall kindly to them.  The best hope of an equaliser seemed to be from a plethora of free kicks but execution was poor.  One such led to the equaliser – Lee Neville’s scuffed effort from the edge of the box bounced ineffectively into a statuesque wall stationed by a referee lacking spatial awareness no more than 7 yards from the ball.  Burke’s shot from the rebound took a wicked deflection into the corner of the net to much relief.

With just a few minutes remaining the Rams almost grabbed what would have been a deserved winner but Jon Robinson’s fiercely hit shot crashed into the hands of the keeper when anything a foot or even inches to either side would have seen the net bulging.

So a draw, welcome as that is, still leaves the Rams needing four points for safety.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton (capt), George Bowyer, Lee Neville, Matthew Burke, Mark Ayres, Alex Frost, David Kuba-Kuba, Jamie Rother, Vinny Mukendi, Lee Gaskell, Osebi Abadaki.  Subs: Phil Edghill, Tom Hartley, Ian Bennett, Jake Cliffe, Jon Robinson (for Gaskell 82mins).
Goal: Matthew Burke (61 minutes)

Referee: Joe Hull (Bramhall)

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