Ramsbottom United played their penultimate league fixture of the season on Thursday night as they made the trip to League Cup finalists Atherton Collieries.

Alder Street, Atherton
Thursday 26 April 2018
Evo-Stik North
Attendance: 153

It was the hosts who began the contest brighter against a Rams team showing just one alteration from Mondays nights narrow defeat at Brighouse with Regan Jarrett replacing Lee Gaskell.

In the early stages of the contest Atherton had a penalty appeal turned down before creating the first attempt on goal when home forward Cover broke through the visitors defence for a one on one opportunity but Sam Ashton stood up well to block the shot.

The Rams, who were playing their third match in six days took a little while to settle into the contest but produced their first attacking moment of note on the quarter hour mark when Greg Daniels fired in a shot which Latham palmed away only for Luke Jordan to fire the rebound over the target.

With the game having an end of season feel about it Atherton continued to have the better of the opening twenty minutes with Cusani testing Ashton with a shot from the edge of the area but a Rams defence with youngsters Harry Foulds and Jarrett playing in the full back roles were keeping the home side largely under control.

As the clock showed ten minutes of the first half remaining the Rams had a gilt edged chance to take the lead when a well worked move down the right hand side gave Foulds the chance to deliver a superb pin point cross which connected  with the head of the onrushing Jordan but the young Morecambe loanees glancing header sailed wide of the target.

Moments later the Rams had a lucky escape when home striker Cover charged down a Sam Ashton clearance just outside of the visitors box, the ball  appeared to be rolling tantalisingly towards an unguarded goal but fortunately narrowly went wide of the target and rolled fractionally out of play before the striker could put the hosts into the lead much to the relief of the visitors from the Riverside.

Unfortunately the sense of relief for the Rams would be short lived as with half time imminent Atherton would edge in front when a ball was pulled back from the by-line to Cover whose well struck volley was well saved by Ashton but the ball looped up towards the far post where an unmarked Hurst nodded the hosts in front.

The second period began in hectic fashion when the hosts doubled their advantage just two minutes after the restart when a deep cross from the right touchline from Sherlock found the head of Hurst who stole in at the far post to head back across Ashton and into the bottom corner for his second goal in 3 minutes either side of the break.

Ramsbottom United reacted immediately to half the deficit when an excellent cross from Luke Jordan fizzed across the face of the goal where Sam Madeley arrived at the far post to tap in from close range to register his first goal for the Rams.

As the tussle continued the visitors were looking to replicate their comeback from two goals down some 72 hours earlier at Brighouse, but it was the hosts that began to fashion the clearer chances with Ashton saving a Peet free kick and Cusani blasting a shot way off target as Atherton looked to continue their hugely impressive record of losing just two of their previous 23 matches.

The Rams continued to push forward with Jerome Wright, Jordan and Daniels probing without generating a clear opportunity whilst the hosts continued looked a threat on the counter attack.

With around a quarter of an hour remaining Wright sent in a free kick into the Atherton area where Luke Thompson connected with a header but the defenders attempt sailed over the target.

Then with five minutes remaining the Rams levelled matters when good work on the edge of the penalty area by Jerome Wright resulted in the ball falling to Sam Madeley whose smart turn and low shot beat Latham to double the strikers tally and again showed the fight and determination the depleted Rams side have shown in recent games.

Regrettably the score line would remain equal for less than two minutes when a contentious free kick was awarded to Atherton just to the right of the penalty box and substitute Peet curled a sublime left footed effort out of the reach of Ashton before hitting the back of the visitors net to give the home side an advantage they wouldn’t surrender.

As much as the Rams pushed forward they couldn’t find an equaliser as they slipped to another unfortunate defeat which was almost identical to the one they suffered three days earlier at Brighouse, both matches had a symmetry to them that regular watchers of Ramsbottom United matches away from home will be all too familiar with this season.

With a threadbare squad to choose from and a hectic final few weeks of the season it is almost impossible to not feel some sympathy for the players as their efforts have definitely deserved more than they have ultimately got but the frustration off all concerned was palpable as the Rams managed to lose after a tenacious fight back against an Atherton side that cemented a position in the top half of the league table with just one match to play.

The Rams complete their league programme with a visit to Glossop North End less than 48 hours after the end of this agonising loss where they will hoping to end their campaign on a positive note.

Ramsbottom United:-  Ashton, Foulds, Jarrett, Stott, Thompson, Ellison, Madeley, Brooks, Jordan, Daniels Wright. Subs not used – Ashburner, Hindley, Dean


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