With a third defeat in their last four outings, Ramsbottom United have been drawn inexorably back into the relegation mire following their narrow 1-0 loss to promotion-chasing Ashton United on a warm, spring day in Tameside.
ASHTON UNITED 1 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 0
Easter Monday 6th April 2015
Whilst there was a considerable amount of endeavour from the Rams, sporting four changes from the 2-0 home defeat on Saturday, the end product continued to be a telling factor – proved rather systematically by David Kuba-Kuba’s goal at Grantham Town nine days ago being the only time the net has bulged for Rammy in the last 360 minutes of action.
And their cause has certainly not been helped by victories for fellow strugglers Marine (1-0 against Skelmersdale United) and Stamford, who thrashed local rivals Grantham 4-1, meaning just three points now separate Jon Robinson’s men and the fourth seat in the unwanted relegation slide.
Played at a fairly frenetic pace throughout, both sides had their chances. Luke Heron curled a shot wide within the first three minutes before the home side, sitting pretty in fourth place in the table, began to create a handful of opportunities, none of which tested the Rammy skipper Grant Shenton. But, there are still spell of indecision in and amongst the Blues defence which almost allowed the hosts to break the deadlock after 20 minutes but, thankfully, Shenton was on his guard.
The Rams best chance of the game came on 38 minutes when some excellent play from Osebi Abadaki saw his shot palmed away by Paul Phillips in the Ashton net. What followed was a touch of comedy as players from both sides slipped and slid to the ground but the ball finally fell to Mukendi, who only had to pick his spot for the easiest of goals as he stood one-on-one with the keeper, who was led on the ground. Unfortunately for the visitors, he chose to shoot straight at the prone stopper.
Both sides went into the break with plenty to consider but it was the Rams who came out the brighter in the second period and had two decent chances through Alex Frost’s header and a shot from Abadaki which skipped wide of the post and then David Kuba-Kuba, a substitute for Luke Heron who limped off late in the first half, teamed with Ian Bennett and provided a beautiful through ball but found no-one in the box to fire home.
All of those opportunities could have come to something had the right player been in the right place with the right ball. But they were closed down quickly and were frustrated throughout by a side with high hopes of being a part of the end of season play-off shake up.
And those hopes were given a huge boost when, from a Rammy attack, Ashton cleared up field and Martin Pilkington just about kept the ball in play on the right touchline and sprinted to the by-line to feed Chris Baguley in the centre who took great delight in scoring against the club he played for briefly a month or so ago.
It was heartbreak for the Rams, who continued to battle but, yet again, with little to show for it. Lee Gaskell and Jon Robinson were both introduced in the final quarter in an attempt to eek something out of the game but, try as they might and alongside Mukendi, who showed signs of excellent skill and also periods that left the travelling support in anguish, the home side grabbed all three points to leave the Rams with plenty to think about as they head into Wednesday night’s Doodson Cup semi-final against Farsley.
Ramsbottom United have much bigger things to think about right now and time is running out to pick up the vital points to steer them clear of danger. There are seven league games to go – five of which are at home. It is going to be a very nervy, tense and nail-biting conclusion to a difficult season.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton (capt), George Bowyer, Lee Neville, Matthew Burke, Mark Ayres, Alex Frost, Osebi Abadaki, Ian Bennett, Vinny Mukendi, Jamie Rother, Luke Heron. Subs: Tom Hartley, David Kuba-Kuba (for Heron 38mins), Lee Gaskell (for Bennett 75mins), Callum Jones, Jon Robinson (for Abadaki 82mins).
Referee: Barry Cropp