When the Rams happily tripped off the pitch on 22 November 2014 finding themselves in fourth place after a comfortable win over a fancied Grantham Town team, few in a crowd of nearly 350 would have put money on it being almost 11 months to the day before they had the pleasure of seeing another Rams home win.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 4 WHITBY TOWN 1
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 20 October 2015
To say that those 11 months have been all heartache and trauma, which have seen crowds slump to well below 200 with more arrivals and departures on the pitch than a New Delhi bus station, would be an understatement.
It was significant then that the reaction to last night’s heartwarming win, their first in 16 games so far this season against a Whitby team playing much better than their league position might suggest, was more by way of a growl of defiance and hope rather than a full throated roar of relief – although there were elements of that.
Make no bones about it – this result does not mark getting out of the woods or anything like that – in fact, the new management team needs to be given time to find out precisely which woods the Rams are in and where North and upwards might roughly be, but this group of young, keen, athletic and committed footballers, if kept together, will on decent surfaces like tonight’s, be a match for all but the best and most physical teams.
On the night, they were a joy to watch. They had just the start and all the encouragement they needed just six minutes into the game when Shane Bland in the Whitby goal misjudged a neat through ball from Max Harrop that seemed to hold up slightly on the edge of the area. He could only fumble the ball into the path of Jack Tuohy who poked the ball under the distraught keeper into the net.
From there, the Rams were looking quick in possession but for the next 25 minutes found possession hard to come by – Alex Meaney and Matt Crothers often being outnumbered through the middle. Whitby were looking dangerous down the right and Grant Shenton had to be at his most alert. The back line, in which Marcus Poscha and Liam Wilson looked assured, held firm and on the half hour, slightly against the run of play, the Rams scored a second when the Whitby back four pressurised by a combination of Tuohy, Jordan Bove and Sam Grimshaw, coughed up possession on the edge of their area. The ball was moved smartly to Alex Meaney whose looping, spinning chip from 22 yards arced with the beauty of a Michelangelo line drawing over the head of Bland and dipped under the bar.
In a frantic first five minutes after the resumption, Whitby could have scored twice but were denied by Shenton only then to see Bland unable to secure the ball at his near post. Max Harrop was on it in a flash to chip the ball across the face of the goal to an unmarked Grimshaw at the far post. His header seemed in that sweet moment to put all the demons to bed.
This deflated the visitors for a while but sensing the vulnerability and lack of experience of the young Rams team, they rallied strongly. With 25 minutes still left, Whitby got a penalty when Prince Hayward found himself isolated at the edge of the box – and Michael Roberts made no mistake from the spot.
Moments later, the turning point of the season might just have arrived. Shenton did well to block a close range shot and then somehow Liam Gibson managed to clear the follow up off the line. If that had gone in, any kind of result would have been possible.
The Rams were now playing on the break but were quick enough to stretch and pull the Whitby defence. Only the last, final pass and a tendency to over elaborate failed them until David Kuba-Kuba did well to retrieve an over hit cross and return the ball instantly back to Tuohy who drilled the ball in from 10 yards to polish off an energetic performance.
The shine was slightly taken off the night with the dismissal of Jordan Bove, who managed to get himself sent off after becoming embroiled in an innocuous tangle in the centre circle.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Grant Shenton (capt), Prince Hayward, Ben Woods, Matthew Crothers, Marcus Poscha, Liam Gibson, Max Harrop (David Kuba-Kuba 66mins), Alex Meaney (Phil Edghill 81mins), Jordan Bove, Jack Tuohy (Brayden Shaw 90mins), Sam Grimshaw. Subs not used: Jake Cliffe, Luke Heron
GOALS: Jack Tuohy (6mins & 74mins); Alex Meaney (30mins); Sam Grimshaw (50mins)
CARDS: Red – Jordan Bove
WHITBY TOWN: Shane Bland, Callum Martin, Mark Robinson (capt) (Josh Keogh 77mins), Lee Bullock, Keiran Weledji, David McTiernan, Thibault Charmey (Liam Shepherd 20mins), Adam Gell, Michael Roberts (Matthew Wyke 84mins), Ryan Brobbel, Matthew Waters. Subs not used: Connor Gardiner, David Campbell
GOALS: Michael Roberts (65mins – pen.)
CARDS: Yellow – Callum Martin, Adam Gell
Referee: Benjamin Speedie (Liverpool)