Ramsbottom United travelled up to Northumberland for their first-ever meeting with renowned non-league giants Blyth Spartans.

Starting the day as massive underdogs against a side battling for promotion to Skrill North, the Rams not only returned home with an unexpected win, but did so in style, with a result that flattered the more illustrious home side.

In a game that started under blue skies, but had the players drenched as the weather turned decidedly nasty, the visitors always looked comfortably in control as they started off on the front foot.

As early as the sixth minute Grant Spencer beat the offside, but his cross was eventually cleared.

Lee Gaskell was presented with a glorious chance when the home keeper made a hash of a clearance, but the striker fired straight at the relieved custodian.

On 20 minutes, Phil Dean was tripped just outside the box, but, after dusting himself down, he fired the free-kick just wide of the target.

Moments later, another free-kick was pushed away following a foul on Joel Pilkington, then Dominic Smalley swivelled on to a clearance but his shot from 30 yards careered over the bar.

The Rams almost took the lead from an unusual source. Keeper Grant Shenton, assisted by the wind sent down a long kick that beat the Spartans defenders, but sailed just wide of goal.

Gaskell and Jon Robinson both had chances before the home side finally made a foray into the Rams area, but the visiting defence dealt with any danger, as the half closed goal-less but having been dominated by the Lancastrians.

The second half kicked off in appalling weather, but the visitors soon lightened the gloom with what proved to be the only goal of the game.

On 48 minutes, Danny Warrender fired in from 25 yards out, leaving the home keeper stranded, and the ball flew into the net off the foot of the post.

It was no more than the Rams deserved, as they continued to press the home defence.

A Dean cross was tipped over by the keeper, with Warrender heading over from the subsequent corner.

A long range effort from Gaskell had the keeper retrieving the ball at the second attempt, before a succession of corners finished with a Spencer free-kick. He launched this into the area and straight into the net, but for some unknown reason the linesman raised his flag and it was chalked off.

On 71 minutes, the visitors were reduced to ten men when Phil Dean was stupidly dismissed for foul and abusive language, leaving his team-mates with a potential battle on their hands.

Fortunately that did not happen, as the ten men continued to take the game to the hosts.

Robinson was inches wide from extending the lead following another free-kick, and as the minutes ticked down, the home side finally put pressure on the Rams defence during the four minutes of added time. The defence stood firm however, to deservedly preserve the slender lead and advance to the next stage of the knock-out competition.

Proof that the victory was well deserved came from Spartans manager Tom Wade who commented after the game “ It has to be said as well that Ramsbottom were the better side, full of well organised experienced players, simple as that. They were miles better than some of the sides we play at our level and deserved to win.”

Ramsbottom United: Shenton, Lomax, Pilkington, Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Smalley, Spencer, Robinson(Hulme 77), Gaskell(Brooks 79), Dean Subs not used Morley, Johnson, Toth

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