The Chairman’s wry smile and shake of the head at the final whistle was more eloquent than words – the rams has survived a second half battering that defied belief to come away with a point that, while improbable for long periods of a fraught 45 minutes, was on balance well deserved.

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Selby Place, Skelmersdale
Tuesday 26 January 2016
Attendance: 151

The thin red line of four valiant defenders in front of a resolute Grant Shenton had been looking so beleaguered and moments away from being completely over-run that a sudden appearance of Michael Caine fresh from Rourkes Drift would not have caused a ripple of surprise.

The turning point that gave the Rams the point came with just five minutes left, Max Hazledine who had already escaped the custodial duties of Phil Edghill to put the home team back on level terms repeated the trick.  Clear through he rattled a shot past Shenton which thudded off the bar and fell to Chris Almond ten yards out and with Shenton on his backside and no other defenders in sight.  Steadying himself, he calmly brought the ball under control and shot towards an empty goal but instead of the net bulging, somehow, the ball passed the over side of the post.

The home fans were apoplectic at the (misplaced) sense of injustice of it all and the dwindling travelling faithful journeyed home with a chuckle.  The beauty of football at this level.

But to have lost the point would have been cruel and to some extend unfair for the Rams for whom Nia Bayunu was immense at both ends of the field.

The first half had been played at a sedate pace which suited the visitors.  Skelmersdale passed the ball neatly stretching the play but without that injection of pace.  The Rams defended diligently and after 30 minutes managed to win a couple of corners.  Up went Bayunu and, for the next ten minutes, never managed to find his way out of the Skelmersdale area.

The home defence found him to be a troubling muscular awkward presence and Tony Rendell jumped all over him in trying to clear a long high ball, the referee brought the home supporters to apoplexy by awarding a penalty.  Alex Meaney’s shot from the spot kick lacked as uch accuracy as it did conviction and Martin Fearon saved easily with his feet.

Undeterred the Rams kept up the pressure and minutes later Meaney redeemed himself by placing a neat header into the feet of Bayunu still loitering in the box and the big centre half hooked the ball low into the corner.

It takes no imagination to know the gist of the Skelmersdale team talk at half-time.  On the restart they came flying at the Rams at pace.  Within second only a flying header from Bayunu prevented an equaliser and from the corner the ball was forced past Shenton but in a second act of redemption cleared off the line by Meaney who in terms of tackles and ground covered does the job of three men – and in most matches surrounded by an ineffectual midfield is having to do.

Five minutes later Hazeldine got the wrong side of the Rams defence and calmly slotted past Shenton to level and from then on, the siege was on.  To be fair for all their pressure, Skelmersdale never really carved out a clear opening until that fateful 85th minute and from that point, with the home team pressing forward, the Rams were able to launch a couple of counter attacks that almost lead to a winner which for the sake of the sanity of the home fans did not quite materialise.

So, with Marine losing on the night, the Rams are now just five points from safety – but the fault lines in the team are all too easy to see and the signing of yet another diminutive but no doubt talented midfielder is not the way to address the issues.

Is the manager sizeist?

Skelmersdale United: Martin Fearon, Valter Fernandez, Louis Corrigan, Robert McIntosh (capt), Tony Rendell, Tryone Duffus, Robbie Booth, Paul Woolcott, Max Hazeldine, Kenny Strickland, Chris Almond.  Subs not used: Gerard Kinsella, Tony Donaldson, Isaac Kusaloka, Danny Murphy, Brendon Gaskell.
Goals: Max Hazeldine (50mins)

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Grant Shenton (capt), Robbie Bromley, Luke Heron, Phil Edghill, Nia Bayunu, Jake Cliffe, David Kuba-Kuba (John Pritchard 81mins), Alex Meaney, Danny Wilkins (Michael Oates 87mins), Dean Hope (Prince Hayward 59mins), Kayde Coppin.  Subs not used: Cameron Dudley, Charlie Doyle
Goals: Nia Bayunu (31mins)

Referee: J. Mainwaring


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