Watching the Rams at present is an invitation to have a schizophrenic episode.  Was this a good result or a disappointing one?  Is there any promise of improving performance or is that an illusion?

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 GRANTHAM TOWN 2
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 12 March 2016
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Attendance: 171

This was long a game marked out for a victory that, in the eyes of the wildly optimistic, would roll back the stone but the draw was as much as the Rams deserved and, on balance, only just so on the back of an excellent shot stopping display from Grant Shenton.  On the other hand in terms of quality, the performance matched that of a Grantham team that will end up comfortably mid-table, not that there was much quality on offer from either team.

This was trench warfare football played at an unremittingly high pace, the ball launched over back fours at every opportunities and controlled possession in midfield as rare as hens teeth.  The Rams, appearing to want to play much more narrower through the middle than of late and looking a bit more secure by virtue of it, scored two good goals in the first half.  Both came from the same source – powerful runs in from the right – one by Robbie Bromley and the other Danny Wilkins.

The first gave Ashley Stott his first goal for the Rams slotting home neatly after John Pritchard’s shot had rebounded from the foot of the post.  The second presented Aaron Smith with all the time he needed to curl a delightful shot into the far corner from the edge of the area.

The Rams could have gone into the break with a comfortable two-goal cushion except for a moment of high farce at the other end.  After Shenton had done well to push away a powerful shot from the edge of the area, Phil Edghill somehow poked the ball into his own net from a difficult angle when clearing for a corner appeared much easier.  It was all a bit like Les Dawson, who was an accomplished pianist, playing a recognisable turn deliberately badly for laughs!  It is a mark of how much the napless veteran is admired and respected at the club that this bit of clumsiness was met with wry smiles and bewilderment rather than vitriol from colleagues – the bench and fans alike.

Grantham will point to another excellent save, this time with his feet and then a shot cannoning out from the underside of the bar as a counter argument to the Rams’ claim for supremacy.  They certainly came out from the break more alert – Shenton was required to make another excellent save doing wonderfully well to push a deflected shot hit at pace wide of his post before the visitors again drew level.

The Rams missed the opportunity to clear a through ball which had caught them square before a cross to the far post reached an unmarked Lee Shaw who scored with his head at the second attempt – the first having been denied by more Shenton heroics.  That was the last meaningful action in either box as the game became more frantic by the minute.  Grantham were finishing the stronger but the game subsided into a draw which left the visitors much more satisfied than their hosts.

The certainty of relegation should provide the Rams with the freedom to experiment with alternative systems to see how the best can be got from the players they have and to concluded – if any conclusion is really needed – which players do not represent the future either through lack of ability or heart or both.

To this observer, 4-4-2 does not work with the available squad.  The middle of the defence is insecure and it would be interesting to see Edghill, by far the most experienced and intelligent player in the squad, tried in a holding role in front of the back four with three central midfielders in front and two forwards giving full backs the opportunity to provide width going forward with security.

It might not work but where is the harm in trying – there is absolutely nothing to be lost.

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