The Rams were twice in front but never in control of this FA Trophy tie and a reply back at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium on Tuesday night was a fair outcome.

FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round
Hurst Cross
Saturday 31st October 2015
Attendance: 138

Heading picture courtesy of Ashton United and Mossley Smiffy

Two goals of sublime quality, the first in its construction, the second in execution, put the shine on a battling display but for long periods they found themselves on the back foot against an Ashton United team long in endeavour and enterprise.

The introduction of George Edmundson, another loan signing at centre half, brought a much greater sense of security at the heart of the defence but field a defensive line up which shifts from match to match is not helping and equilibrium was further disrupted by the loss of Liam Gibson, who looked comfortable at right back after only 15 minutes – not only that it presented Ashton with the chance to equalise while the Rams were down to ten men.

This was doubly unfortunately because up to then, the Rams had looked comfortable in possesision and at the back having taken the lead just five minutes in.  Alex Meaney released Gibson on the right and his instant accurate cross was met perfectly by Jordan Bove’s header.  Off though went Gibson and Adam Morning took advantage down the left and his long cross was met on the half volley at the fat post by Jay Gorton.

From then the Rams found it difficult to control possession despite hard work by Meaney and there will be concern, or should be, at the time and space Ashton found out wide.  The ball frequently flashed across the face of the Rams goal but more through persistence than design they managed to create chances of their own without testing Paul Phillips in the Ashton goal.

Then on the hour against the run of play came a goal for the Rams that should linger long in the memory.  Against the general trend, Alex Meaney closed down deep in the Ashton half and fed Shelton Payne tight on the touchline 20 yards out.  From that unpromising position he walked two Ashton defenders back to the edge of the area the ball tight to his feet.  Then with the same motionless fluidity of the Academia’s David, poised to strike with sling in one hand stone in the other, he awaited the lunge and with a feint and walk-over shimmied clear into the box,  What happened next seemed to be almost in freeze frame from the point the ball exploded of boot.  The pace, swerve dip imparted on the ball was subliminal, perceived rather than seen, not least by the keeper, until a fraction of a second later it ripped into the far top corner.

It was a goal worthy to win the game indeed any game but on the day not quite enough.

Back came Ashton against a retreating and flagging Rams.  A long free kick just five minutes later somehow fell to Martin Pilkington in a crowded box and it was back to all square.  Ashton, sensing the win, pressed forward, the Rams retreated too easily giving up ground and declining to press and the last quarter was a story of dogged resistance.  Pilkington could have grabbed a winner but shot wide and were grateful for the final whistle.

Cup ties can often be great levellers but away against a team showing good league form and sitting comfortable in mid-table, this game was further evidence of strengthening performance.  In terms of ability, the squad is good enough to compete in the NPL and are lacking only a bit of nous, know-how and confidence to control matches and avoid inviting pressure of the back four.  After Tuesday’s replay, the Rams entertain Rushall Olympic next Saturday.

ASHTON UNITED: Paul Phillips, Cavell Coo, Steve Mason, Jason Gorton (capt), Liam Goulding (Will Haining 71mins), Mark Lees, Matthew Chadwick (Chris Sutherland 62mins), Gary Gee, Aaron Burns (Martin Pilkington 54mins), Chris Baguley, Adam Morning.  Subs not used: Joe Connor, Steve Halford

Goals: Jason Gorton (17mins), Martin Pilkington (65mins)

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Grant Shenton (capt), Liam Gibson (Matthew Crothers 18mins), Ben Woods, Marcus Poscha, George Edmundson, David Kuba-Kuba, Shelton Payne (Jack Tuohy 86mins), Alex Meaney, Jordan Bove, Prince Hayward, Sam Grimshaw.  Subs not used: Phil Edghill, Braydon Shaw, Jake Cliffe.

Goals: Jordan Bove (7mins), Shelton Payne (59mins)

Referee: D Hitchell

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