Two moments of individual brilliance in the last 20 minutes saved the Rams from a defeat in a dark, dour, ill-tempered match. The psychological boost of avoiding defeat will be greater than the point, important as that is.
STAMFORD 1 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1
The Zeeco Stadium
Saturday 14th February 2015
Behind from the 9th minute when Dan Clements ghosted in at the near post onto an innocuous ball from the left and playing against 10 men for the whole of the second half, for 70 minutes it looked unlikely that the Rams would get anything from the game. When Richard Jones was sent off for Stamford just before the half-time whistle after a robust but, by no means, bad tackle, the expectation among the travelling support was of the Rams going on to win. However, an innumerate spectator wandering into the ground for the second half would not have noticed that the Rams had a numerical advantage. Stamford worked hard, closed down quickly and prevented the Rams gaining any presence or momentum.
This was effectively the first game of the season for this group of players and the lack of cohesion and match fitness showed, so to say that much of the Rams play was as disjointed as a dis-articulated skeleton is an objective observation of the inevitable and not a criticism. The prospect of a long, gloomy ride home went from apprehension to expectation when, with time starting to run out, Jordan Smith forced his way past Lee Pugh in a sudden counter attack, allowed to run into the box by a retreating defence and was upended by debutant Alex Frost. Smith’s shot from the spot was well directed towards the side netting and hit with pace but Grant Shenton got a hand to it, deflecting the ball onto the post.
As is so often the case, the missed penalty came with the double whammy of deflating the team missing it and breathing renewed belief in the opposition. By this stage, the Rams had introduced the experienced and much travelled Matt Burke, who brought more substance in every sense of the word to the midfield. Donal McDermott had provided what few moments of quality there had been up to that point but had flitted in and out of the game. With Burke’s controlling presence, McDermott was able to play wide more confident that the ball would find its way to him sufficiently quickly to allow him time and space to attack the bye line or cut inside. However he, too often, found the ball on his weaker right foot or his crosses found only fresh air.
So, as Bumble says, it was looking like time to ‘Start the Car’ until from nowhere, Osebi Abadaki picked up a clearance. 30 yards out, he danced past a defender and rifled a vicious cross shot into the far top corner to level. The fact that this was a point gained rather than two lost was reinforced in the last minutes when a shot from Dan Lawlor, which was well on its way into the top corner, took the slightest of deflections from a Rams head onto the angle of post and bar.
So the Rams will go into Tuesday’s match at home to Rushall Olympic undefeated in the league since New Year’s Day. The visitors, who the Rams beat comfortably away at the beginning of the season, had an impressive home win over Curzon Ashton on Saturday and another tough game awaits – but they will all be from here on in.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton (capt), George Bowyer, George Grayson, Kyle Harrop, Alex Frost, Lee Pugh, Tom Brooks, Jamie Rother, Lee Gaskell, Christopher Baguley, Donal McDermott. Subs: Matthew Burke (for Brooks 66mins), Osebi Abadaki (for Rother 66mins), Tom Hartley (for Baguley 83mins), Luke Heron, Jordan Lazenbury.