Sometimes the certainty of relegation can release pressure on a team which allows it to put in a free-wheeling, stress-free performance which can leave supporters exasperated at the ‘what might have beens’. Unfortunately that was not the case at the HWRS on Saturday where the Rams gave another disappointing show against honest opponents who themselves had nothing to play for – a performance long on honest endeavour but frightening well short of the understanding and requirements needed to be competitive in the NPL.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 0 HALESOWEN TOWN 2
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 10 April 2016
There are many who are placing the relegation firmly at the door of the current management duo but that is unfair. The truth is that the path to relegation has been inexorable since January 2015. Where they are culpable though and should now be facing the most serious of questions is that instead of guiding a stricken aeroplane into a controlled crash landing offering enough survivors to give promise for next season, they have instead contrived a hopeless spiralling nose-down collision that leaves only a sense of great foreboding for what the future might hold for this 50-year-old club.
On Saturday they were again outplayed for all but 20 of the 90 minutes and the only positive thing to be said is that the two goals that gave Halesowen the points were so superbly crafted as to be irresistible. The first, on 12 minutes, saw Tyree Clarke execute a spin and turn on the edge of the area that would have left floundering much better defenders than those available to the Rams. His immediate low shot hit with force was destined for the bottom corner until turned away brilliantly by Grant Shenton only for the ball to fall into the path of Luke Male.
The second – on 45 minutes – if anything was better. Aaron Griffiths picked up possession hard on the touch line just inside the Rams half and sending a curving cross-field ball full 60 yards which completely cut out the Rams defence to send Kaiman Anderson free to calmly slot home past Shenton. By that stage, the Rams could easily have been three down when Shenton fluffed a clearance but then did well to recover to tip over.
Between the goals the Rams had dominated possession with youngster Zack Hargreaves and Jack Cliffe combining well in the centre and bringing the full-backs into play in promising positions. The Rams though are sufficiently impotent up front for there to be no shortage of the promise of employment in a harem and the nearest they came to scoring was from a deflected shot from Andy Smart that spun away from the foot of the post. On the restart, the Halesowen management made a tactical change beyond the wit and imagination of their counterparts to snuff out the Hargreaves/Cliffe insurrection by pushing Jay Denny into midfield. He went on to calmly and unobtrusively control the game.
Halesowen should have doubled their lead first. Danny Sweeney heading wide at the far post with the net gaping and then at the death, Anderson running onto a smart cut back but not quite getting enough force on a well directed shot to beat Shenton.
The Rams had huffed and puffed away but could only manage a couple of scuffed shots easily saved – lacking any real sense of organisation, speed of movement and passing to trouble the visitors or indeed any team at this level.
There are some promising players in the squad but in truth there is no sum to the parts – and beyond some monotonous Frankie Goes to Hollywood like bellows there is little apparent communication, direction or motivation from the technical area. It is telling that for many weeks the substitution of a player has been received more as a reprieve than an invitation to show annoyance – and that speaks all.
Ramsbottom United: Grant Shenton (capt), Robbie Bromley, Andrew Smart, Dylan Smith, Nia Bayunu, Zack Hargreaves, Daniel Wilkins, Jake Cliffe, Steve Foster (Bevan Burey 66mins), Alex Meaney, Luke Heron. Subs not used: Joe Shaw, Kevin McGrath, Dennon Ashcroft, Jamie Rother.
Halesowen Town: Daniel Platt, Dumitru Chiriac, Aaron Griffiths, Jay Denny (capt), Kyle Morrison, Lewis Bradley, Luke Male, George Forsyth, Kaiman Anderson, Tyree Clarke, Malcolm Melvin. Subs not used: Michael Turner, Jarrod Grant.
Goals: Luke Male (12mins), Kaiman Anderson (43mins)
Yellow card: Lewis Bradley
Referee: Simeon Lucas (Darwen)