It is said that it is better to travel hopefully than arrive. Having won their last 5 games and securing 23 out of the last 27 points available, the question that is forming on the lips of all those in and around the Rams is whether their arrival in the Northern Premier League is the pinnacle of their journey up the football ladder or simply a continuation of an amazing upward trajectory.
There was talk of wins being hard to come by on the banks of the Mersey but quite frankly the Rams came into the match looking a team confident in their ability to win and determined so, for the most part quite comfortably, and barely disrupted by the positional changes required by suspensions to Cedric Krou and Scott Burton.
It is true to say that their dominance in the first half, which saw them cruise into a three goal lead was assisted by a strange passivity on the part of their hosts but they were none the less full value for that lead. Spurred on by Gary Stopforth and Joel Pilkington, showing his versatility in midfield, who were breaking forward and attacking the edges of the Marine box at will, the Rams were a constant threat on goal.
Their dominance was such that at times Steve Howson and Jon Robinson playing at the back seemed to be camped permanently in the Marine box. Howson came close on 25 minutes seeing his goal bound shot deflected wide but shortly after met Grant Spencer’s corner delivered at pace with a firm header into the roof of the net.
Matthew Cooper in the Marine goal was then forced into a series of desperate saves, the best being a double effort first to beat out a fierce shot and then to deny Phil Dean on the follow up flinging out an arm to send the ball wide.
The reprieve was very short lived, however. From the corner, the ball found its way to Osebi Abadaki in the ‘D’. His instant shot hit on the half volley swerved past Cooper into the roof of the net. On 40 minutes, it seemed all up for Marine as Howson met another Spencer corner, this time at the far post and heading in off the foot of the upright.
In recent weeks, the Rams seem to have been playing to the adage that enough is as good as a feast, declining opportunities to put teams to the sword. Marine made changes at half time and came out with at least some level of determination. As likely as the Rams are to score at one end, the risk of conceding at the other is an ever present and the warning signs of a potential Marine revival were obvious on the hour when substitute Dan Whitehall rounded Grant Shenton but scuffed wide.
Up play went to the other end and Jordan Hulme nipped the ball away from a defender in the box and was upended. Jon Robinson’s under hit and ill directed penalty barely troubled Cooper in the Marine goal.
Minutes later, Marine were awarded their own penalty which Andy Fowler sent cleanly past Shenton and, for the last quarter of an hour, put the Rams under such pressure that there was a clear feeling that if they were to score again, the victory that had been so firmly in the Rams’ grasp might slip away.
Shenton was forced into a number of sharp saves before the ship was finally steadied. Cooper finished off a strong performance with a good save from Abadaky and then saw Malachi Slaven’s effort cleared off the line in the final moments.
So three more goals, three more points, an unbeaten month of October – all is well with the world at the Riverside.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Joel Pilkington, Gary Stopforth, Steven Howson, Lee Pugh, Osebi Abadaki, Jon Robinson, Jordan Hulme, Grant Spencer, Phil Dean. Subs: Tom Williams (for Pilkington 82), Nelson Mota (for Spencer 90), Malachi Slaven (for Dean 82), Lee Gaskell, Alex Piacentile.