There is the occasional football match which lasts long in the memory and brings warm smiles when remembered.  Most often they are the massive giant killing acts or a game of goals and such artistry that demand to put in annals of greatness.  And there are then games such as this which are much harder to define, lacking in quality and beauty but played with such raw passion and endeavour as to leave the spectator breathless at an outcome that was so clearly on the cards but also unlikely until the closing breathless seconds.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1 WORKINGTON 1
Evo Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 27th February 2016
Attendance: 213

The results around the bottom of the league will mean that the point gained against a promotion chasing team will do little to advance whatever realistic prospects of escape the Rams might have but the boost to morale and belief should be palpable.

They had gone behind in just six minutes, wilting in the face of a high octane start from the visitors fuelled by a constant cacophony of bawled instructions, imprecations and downright nonsense from their technical area.  Robbie Hebson found space at the far post and his shot past Grant Shenton was more than likely going in until an outstretched leg from Kevin McGrath made sure it did.  An unfortunate but unavoidable own goal.

From there Workington, more mobile and capable of flooding space with bodies and adapting better to an uneven surface, dominated the game for the next 80 minutes, carving out any number of chances but spurning many and being denied by Shenton.  The Rams were unable to enjoy any sustained control of the ball or possession in attack but the longer the game stayed at 0-1, the more obvious it was that they would somehow grab an equaliser.

The turning point came with 15 minutes left.  Young Dylan Smith had been outstanding at the heart of the Rams defence.  As the game had become stretched and the pace more frantic, he has unfurled any number of last ditch and superbly timed tackles to deny the Workington attack, led in style by Joe McGee.  For once McGee escaped his attentions and released Scott Allison clear on goal.  His shot soared over the bar and with it Workington’s chance to put the Rams out of the game.

With expectations of an equaliser rising in inverse proportion to the time remaining, the Rams managed at last to launch a sustained assault but it was not until the first of several minutes of added on time that they were able to make Alex Mitchell produce a meaningful save – a fine effort low at the foot of the post to deny Robbie Bromley.  Shenton lumbered into the box for the corner, inducing as much panic in the home support as the visitors defence but creating just about enough distraction among attackers and defenders alike for the first corner to result in a second and the second a third.

From that corner Andrew Smart, as far from his left back positions as it is just about as possible to get, met the ball with a header at the near post.  There was then one of those freeze frame moments in which no-one is quite clear of the trajectory of the ball until it ballooned into the back of the net.  Cue delirium and pandemonium and a delicious silence for the first time in 96+ minutes from the visitors’ management team.

This leaves the Rams on a high going into Tuesday’s match against Colwyn Bay – a game they must not only win but need to dominate.

The new strike partnership of Steve Foster and Ashley Stott looks promising and the return of Nia Bayunu, if twinned with Dylan Smith, should provide a solid defensive base.  A way has to be found though of avoiding Alex Meaney and whoever partners him being outnumbered in the middle.

The penny should have dropped by now that playing two wide players simply does not work.

TEAMS:
Ramsbottom United: Grant Shenton (capt), Robbie Bromley, Andrew Smart, Kevin McGrath, Dylan Smith, Jake Cliffe (David Kuba-Kuba 65mins), Daniel Wilkins, Alex Meaney, Steve Foster, Ashley Stott (Aaron Smith 65mins), Joel Melia.  Subs not used: Roman Hickey, John Pritchard, Luke Heron.
Goals: Andrew Smart (90+2mins)
Yellow cards: Jake Cliffe, Joel Melia

Workington: Alex Mitchell, Jacob Simpson, Gari Rowntree (capt), Kyle May, Joshua Calvert, James Earl, Philip McLuckie (Kingsley Grandison 45mins), Robert Wilson, Scott Allison, Joseph McGee, Robbie Hebson (Robert McCartney 77mins).  Subs not used: Matthew Tymon, Anthony Wright, Liam Studholme.
Goals: Kevin McGrath (o.g.) (6mins)

Referee: Peter Sporne (Sheffield).

This leaves the Rams on a high going into Tuesday’s match against Colwyn Bay a game they must not only win but need to dominate.  The new strike partnership of Steve Foster and Ashley Scott looks promising and the return of Nia Bayunu if twinned with Dylan Smith should provide a solid defensive base. A way has to be found though of avoiding Alex Meaney and whoever partners him being outnumbered in the middle. The penny should have dropped by now that playing two wide players simply does not work.

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