The game was the season so far and the prospects for the rest of the season in a microcosm – a display of tremendous potential if this group of players can be kept together but at the same time a demonstration of a continuing inability to maintain an even level of performance or to control and kill off games.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 RUSHALL OLYMPIC 1
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 7th November 2015
So for all the satisfaction that will come from the win which now leaves the Rams just seven points shy of safety and with a couple of games in hand, the new management will have plenty to ponder.
For 45 minutes, the Rams played their best football for a good long while. Shelton Payne on the left, sublime with his first touch, was irrepressible, irresistible and just about unplayable. His every touch threatened a goal and the only surprise was that it took 27 minutes for one to arrive and when it did, only by way of an own goal when the Rushall full-back diverting Payne’s forceful low cross past his keeper. To be fair, Michael Oates was lined up behind him and would more than likely have scored in any event.
Seven minutes later the visitors were down to ten men when Payne was hauled down when free on goal and, as they struggled to regroup, the Rams surged forward with Alex Meaney prominent but could not grab a second goal that the first half performance more than deserved.
In normal fashion the Rams came out flying from the traps at the start of the second half – backwards. Lacking any momentum, any ability to make use of their numeric advantage or to put Payne in possession they allowed Rushall to seize control of the game. Where Payne became a frustrated observer at one end, Luke Benbow sprang to rotund life at the other and single-handedly put the Rams back four under pressure.
Ten minutes into the half and looking a little offside, he sprang clear and lifted the ball over a diving Grant Shenton. Although there were legitimate shouts for offside, it was no more than Rushall deserved. From there, it was Rushall who played as if a man up, not down. The Rams failed to prevent a steady stream of supply to Benbow who held the ball up and brought midfielders into play – one shot punched clear by Shenton and another crashing just wide.
The game cried out for changes off the bench and just before it was too late, the introduction of Robbie Bromley at right full back released Prince Heywood to play wide on the right. At last, Rushall were stretched.
With six minutes left, Heywood broke clear and his pass found Payne in space. His shot had enough power and direction to slip past the keeper. There was still enough time for nervousness at the heart of the Rams defence to cause palpitations. A header thudded just wide with Shenton beaten and then he and Poscha got in a tangle and only a desperate clearance from Edmundson prevented Benbow from grabbing a second equaliser.
But the Rams overall were just about worth the three points.