60 minutes football of Swiss watch smoothness and precision put the Rams through to the next round of the FA Trophy.
Encouraged by an immaculate pitch that puts many in higher leagues, and not least the National Stadium, to shame, it was clear from the body language that the Rams were determined to put the ennui of recent games firmly behind them.
Scott Burton was an impenetrable shield in front of the back four, Dom Smalley rampaged up the right wing and in tandem with Tom Williams, who ran the Nantwich left-back ragged. Jordan Hulme quite simply made a total pest of himself, ranging the full width of the pitch, holding the ball up and bringing others into play and generally driving the whole of the hosts’ defence to distraction. It was what was clearly a well rehearsed move that saw his run to the near post after just five minutes, taking with him both central defenders and allowing Williams to ghost in on Grant Spencer’s in-swinging free-kick and slide home from the six-yard line.
By the time the second goal came along on 38 minutes, delayed only be a couple of smart saves from Terry Smith in the home sides goal, the disintegration of the Nantwich back line was such that they were engaging more with the officials than the Rams attackers. Still arguing with the referee over a disputed throw, they failed to react to another accurate cross from Spencer. Hulme headed on and the ball fell perfectly to Phil Dean, who spectacularly volleyed past Smith from a narrow angle in almost Van Basten fashion.
11 minutes into the second half, the game was all but up. Jordan Hulme was again the provider taking advantage of further confusion among the Nantwich defenders as to what constitutes offside to calmly round the keeper and tee up Grant Spencer with the easiest of tap ins.
That really should have been that but the Rams do like to dangle the chain and invite a counter punch. With 20 minutes left, they allowed Winslade space to slot in a low cross from the left. For a few moments, there was a threat of an unlikely comeback which could all to easily have materialised except for some classy interventions from the imperious Cedric Krou, one of which he followed up with a mazy 70-yard run, spoiled only by a shot that ballooned over the bar.
With that, the Rams restored equilibrium and calm. Smith saved brilliantly from Dean, set up by another strong run from Hulme and a neat cut back and the Rams closed the game out comfortably, although where four minutes of added time came from is as much a mystery as how they managed to let Nantwich beat them at home earlier in the season in the league.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Lee Pugh, Gary Stopforth, Steve Howson, Cedric Krou, Tom Williams, Scott Burton, Jordan Hulme, Grant Spencer, Phil Dean. Substitutes: Osebi AbadakI (for Williams 79mins), Lee Gaskell (for Hulme 79mins), Jon Robinson (for Spencer 79mins), Nelson Mota, Alex Piacentile.