It was obvious from both the line ups and approach that there was much more at stake in this game than simple progression to the next stage of the Doodson Sport League Cup.
There has never been much love lost between these two clubs and there was no way that the Rams were going to allow their nouveau riche neighbours from North Manchester with their money-fuelled ambitions any kind of bragging rights. This led to a feisty and close fought encounter that had an undercurrent of niggle, bad temper and latent aggression that was far from dampened by irresolute and inconsistent officiating.
For all of their pretensions and, really being no better than they ought to be, Salford are a serious side with far from unrealistic aspirations for the season.
The Rams took the lead on 11 minutes when Jordan Hulme hooking in from a corner but despite some controlled play and having the majority of the ball thereafter failed to dominate. Salford hung in and just short of the half hour, Nicky Platt seized on a loose cross field pass to hare away down the right and, with Grant Shenton finding himself in no-mans’ land, presented Danny Webber with the widest of open goals.
The equaliser and the hope it provided to the hosts brought the simmering tensions to the surface; a few minutes later, there was an unseemly melee in front of the dug outs involving all 22 players and most of the touchline staff, resulting in the dismissal of Gareth Seddon for the Reds and Anthony Johnson, all baby-faced innocence, sent to the stands.
For the remaining hour, if anything, Salford played better with ten than they had with 11 and the innumerate would not have realised that the Rams had a man advantage. The home team kept their shape in midfield, dominated at the back where Chris Lynch and Aaron Walters were exceptional and despite the numerical disadvantage often found themselves with a man over going forward. The Rams were content to sit deep and play on the break but too much of their play was imprecise and uncertain. Nonetheless chances were created – Grant Spencer shooting narrowly wide after Osebi Abadaki skipped to the bye line and then Jordan Hulme, finding himself crowded out, after a forceful run into the box.
Eventually, just past the hour, the Rams got their noses in front for a second time. Grant Spencer picking up a loose ball at the edge of the area and firing through a crowd of players into the bottom corner. There is though nothing as dangerous as a team with nothing to lose.
Almost immediately from the restart, Sam Madeley seized on the ball 25 yards out and sent in a looping shot with Grant Shenton doing wonderfully well to claw away from under the bar. Salford continued to press but without being able to create another opening. At the other end, the Rams spurned several chances on the break against a by-then two man Salford defence before, on the final whistle, they finally found the killer pass to Grant Spencer, who slotted home to settle the matter.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Phil Dean, Gary Stopforth, Steve Howson, Cedric Krou, Osebi Abadaki, Scott Burton, Jordan Hulme, Jon Robinson, Grant Spencer. Subs: Lee Pugh (for Robinson 61mins), Malachi Slaven, Alex Piacentile, David Kuba-Kuba (for Burton 70mins), Tom Brooks.
Goals: Jordan Hulme (11), Grant Spencer (65), Grant Spencer (90)