Ramsbottom United progressed to the next round of the County Cup with a relatively easy victory over North West Counties side Atherton LR, despite a spirited effort from the visitors.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 3-1 ATHERTON LR
Joint managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley introduced a number of youngsters to the side, and they all performed admirably on the night.
Matthew Warburton looked solid at the back alongside Andy Dawson in the first half, and Billy Priestley in the second.
Former Bury FC youngsters Matthew Prickett and Tommy Toth competed well, Prickett with some fine wing play, and Toth with a non-stop midfield performance, whilst up front Callum Smith deservedly got his name on the score-sheet with two goals.
After a tentative opening, the visitors had the first chance on ten minutes when a low ball in from the left by Gareth Shaw was turned away for a corner from which Grant Shenton held Craig Dickinson’s header.
A minute later, some fine trickery by Lee Gaskell on the left set up Prickett, but his header was blocked.
Warburton was unlucky to see his header clip the bar and bounce over, before Smith, through on goal, was denied by the keeper, as was Gaskell whose follow-up suffered the same fate.
Tom Brooks twisted his way into the area, only to be denied by Andrew Farrimond in the LR goal, as the home side began to exert pressure on the visitors defence.
LR still had their moments, and Robert Molyneux was unlucky to see his pile-driver sail inches past the far post with Shenton well beaten.
For the Rams, Prickett came close to opening the scoring when his low drive bounced off the inside of the post and ricocheted along the goal-line before being cleared. Brooks was denied by Farrimond, and Smith had a shot hacked off the line, as the home side sought the goal their dominance deserved.
It finally arrived on 39 minutes. A high ball into the box was expertly brought down by Brooks, and he turned his marker before firing home past Farrimond and in by the post.
The Rams almost increased the lead before the break, when Prickett fired straight at the custodian, who was then relieved to see an attempted header clearance from Tom Cahill graze the outside of the keeper’s post.
The second half had barely started before Ramsbottom doubled the lead.
The ball fell kindly for Smith, and he had no trouble blasting the ball home from ten yards.
Ben Hardcastle tested Shenton from 20 yards as LR attempted to regain a foot-hold, before Lee Gaskell twice looked to extend the lead.
He firstly dribbled along the penalty area before unleashing a shot that just cleared the bar, then was inches away from converting a Prickett cross after good work by the youngster.
Substitute Dominic Smalley danced his way into the area before firing just off target, whilst, at the other end, Shenton denied Mark Adams at close range.
On 68 minutes, Adams did manage to find the net when he created space in the box, to bring the visitors back into the game.
Smith should have extended the Rams lead minutes later, when he did all the hard work racing into the box, but as Farrimond came out, he lofted the ball over the keeper, but also over the bar.
Atherton looked for an equaliser, with Shaw trying his luck from 30 yards, before Shenton was forced into a brilliant save to turn a close range volley over for a corner from which McKillop saw his header blocked.
A minute later, on 78 minutes, the home side made the game safe.
A great run down the right by Jordan Hulme saw him release the ball to the unmarked Smith, and he made no mistake in collecting his second and the Rams’ third of the night.
Brooks twice came close to extending the lead, but on the night the home side had done enough to deservedly move into the next round.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Hulme, Roberts, Stopforth(Spencer 48mins), Dawson(Priestley 45mins), Warburton, Prickett, Toth, Smith, Brooks, Gaskell(Smalley 6smins). Subs not used: Dean, Robinson