There was nothing pretty about this victory – in all honesty the Rams will play better this season and lose – but the win, against a high flying and skilled Lancaster team was all the more satisfying for that.

Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 6 December 2016
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North
Attendance: 172

On a rainy night in Rammy in the dog days of what has been a pretty difficult year the Rams quarried out a rugged determined performance which ultimately deflated their visitors leaving them to beat the turf in frustration. You never quite know what to expect from the Rams – like atoms in the Hadron collider the tend to career around often seemingly disorganised but never lacking in activity and then every now and again in a fusion of energy which lights up the fan’s hopes and expectations. This was one of those nights.

Ahead after 13 minutes from a Ryan Salmon goal the Rams thereafter found themselves pressed back for much of the remainder of the game. Devoid on this occasion of the comforting presence of Matty Atherton in front of him Josh Askew had by far the most challenging experience of his time at the Rams so far – caught with the unenviable choice of having to pick up the penetrating runs of Craig Carnegie on his inside or those of Jacob Gregory on the outside. Several times that pair manipulated their way to the bye-line but to the Rams good fortune all too often the cross was either lacking in direction or fell to a desperate block and clearance. It was one of those that found its way low to Ryan Salmon who isolated and then spun away from his marker and nonchalantly shot acrossMichael Hale to open and complete the scoring.

Young Askew though is irrepressible – for all his defensive pressures he still showed the wit and turn of speed to range forward, first latching on to an astute back heel from Gareth Seddon to send in a cross which had the Lancaster defence at panic stations and then bursting into the box only to have the ball nicked away in the act of shooting.

Match on match, Gareth Seddon is growing into the captaincy and influence. Playing with his head up and swishing his foot across the ball with a delicate brush stroke he is at the centre of most if not all of the Rams attacking ambitions. His 50 yard pass across the face of the Lancaster defence curled with the outside of the foot into the path of SamFreakes was exquisite but not the defining intervention of the night.

That distinction fell to young Charlie Albinson. Initially looking uncertain he was clattered into wakefulness diving at the feet of an onrushing Craig Carney. As the tempo if not the accuracy of the Lancaster attacks increased he produced two stunning savesto keep the Rams in front. The first from a firm downward header from no more than six yards out was at that difficult angle low at the base of his feet but he managed to get a firm hand down and deflect the ball away – the fact that the effort would have been wiped out for offside does not detract from the save.

For all the Rams defensive resilience there was a feeling that if Lancaster had equalised they would have gone on to win. So even though there was less than three minutes remaining on the clock this made the tyro keeper’s second save all the more important and spell binding in its execution – spreading his body to somehow deflect away a header which had the Lancaster attacker turning away thinking he had scored.

Five minutes of added time encouraged Lancaster to sweep forward but only found a thin blue line of Rams resolve. Between them Luke Thompson and Paul Linwood by this time reinforced by Lee Botham got a head or foot to the ball in advance of a Lancaster attacker and apart from an effort which flew over the bar when at first it seemed to be dipping under it, the Rams goal survived without too much alarm – but with no little apprehension.

To have been deprived of all three points would have been a harsh.

The Rams now have a free weekend and with several players nursing knocks and after an intense month of football the rest will do them no harm.

Ramsbottom United: Charlie Albinson, Dean Stott, Joshua Askew, Alex Meaney, Luke Thompson, Paul Linwood, Damian Green, Grant Spencer, Ryan Salmon, Gareth Seddon (capt), Sam Freakes.  Subs: Lee Botham (for Salmon 88mins), Matthew Atherton (for Freakes 86mins), Bradley Roscoe (for Meaney 55mins), Oliver Crankshaw, Aaron Hollindrake.

Lancaster City: Michael Hale, Simon Wills, Adam Sumner, Billy Akrigg, Joshua Westwood, Richard Mercer, Jacob Gregory, Ryan Winder, Louis Mayers, Craig Carney, Oliver Crolla.  Subs: Gavin Clark (for Gregory 81mins), Rob Henry, Daniel Shearwood (for Crolla 60mins), Luke Raybould.

Referee: Nathaniel Cox (Blackpool)

Footage of Ryan Salmon’s goal (courtesy of Stephen Heard)

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