The final score with all the goals coming in the last 10 minutes somewhat flattered a rather insipid Rams performance as they eventually saw off the challenge of North West Counties League outfit West Didsbury and Cholton in the Lancashire FA Trophy.
There is an advert on TV at present featuring men of a certain age playing football the rule being that running is not allowed. For more than 70 minutes, the Rams seemed intent on putting this slightly esoteric idea into practice.
That is not to suggest that there was any lack of effort from the Rams. The limited range of the squad means that both by design and necessity there is only a plan A – the pleasing neat open football than attracts many admirers but allows the opposition to play as well. The visitors took advantage and for most of the first half and long into the second, the gap in status was far from apparent.
Most of the better moments for the Rams in a largely forgettable first half came through Nelson Mota, who produced a couple of good saves from Jordan Hitchen but the visitors also had their chances too – the best falling to Adam Hilton who put through a statuesque back line and was only denied by an excellent save with his feet by Grant Shenton. As the half-time whistle beckoned, the Rams began to build some pressure. Hitchen saved well from Lee Gaskell and then fortunate to see a low cross from Grant Spencer infiltrating from the right cleared from under the crossbar.
The improvement did not save the Rams from no little managerial ire at half-time. In a clear sign that just at the moment all is not quite well, they were kept out on the pitch and subjected to what was clearly and could only be described as direct motivation. The introduction of Scott Burton brought some better direction but without any real sign of a breakthrough apart from Dominic Smalley being upended in the area only to see the referee literally looking the other way, confused by the fact that the linesman were operating down the right rather than left touchlines.
With 80 minutes gone though, the visitors were visibly tiring and, with the introduction of Jordan Hulme’s ability to hold up the ball with his back to goal, a sustained threat began to materialise. Hulme’s clever reverse pass found Spencer in the ‘D’ and his shot ricocheted in off the post and the second goal came soon after as Lee Gaskell volleyed in a precision cross from Tom Williams.
Williams then picked out Gaskell on the penalty spot, who twisted acrobatically to send in a brilliant volley only to have it well saved by Hitchen. However, on the first whistle, another fine cross from the winger, controlled instantly by Hulme and fed into the path of Phil Dean who produced the third of the night.
If this had been an election campaign, the message would have been obvious – it is the quality and timing of crosses stupid!