Evo-Stik West Division
Monday 22nd April 2019
Radcliffe FC 0 Ramsbottom United 0
Report by Damien Barlow
The penultimate game of the regulation season saw the Rams make the short trip into M26 to take on neighbours Radcliffe. With the two teams placed 2nd and 4th respectively, both knew that three points today could secure a playoff spot and alleviate some pressure heading into the final weekend in six days time.
The Rams got us started, playing in their changed strip of red and black and attacking from right to left and with the up hill dis-advantage which would dictate the first forty five minutes.
With the rewards that a win would bring today, it was no surprise that the opening fifteen minutes were a scrappy affair, with no quarter given nor received, and no time on the ball for any of the outfield players. On the rare occasions anyone was able to send a meaningful ball into the area, namely two Tom Kennedy free-kicks, they were dealt with simply by the home defence.
The first test on Sam Ashtons goal came just after the ten minute mark as a Jamie Rother foul allowed Scott Metcalfe the opportunity to send an in-swinging free-kick down by the corner flag whch found Smith at the back post who won his header with ease but sent the ball into the side netting.
Shortly after that scare another was to follow, as Thompson seemed to get caught under a long ball from Radcliffe and mis-judge the flight allowing it to bounce behind him and allow Tunde Owolabi free down the left. As the recovering number 5 tried to make amends Owolabi crashed to the floor with a shot at goal beckoning, the home fans were certain of the penalty, and the away fans rueing the simplicty of how the chance was presented, only for the referee to replay the incident through his head and then issue a yellow card to the man on the floor for simulation. The reaction from the closest Ramsbottom players to Owolabi would suggest the man in the middle made the right decision, unfortuantley Kelvin Lugsden made too strong a point and joined Owolabi in the book.
The referee was called into action again minutes later as Rother found himself in a foot race with Haywood, again the coming together saw the attacking player ending up grounded, and again the protests were waved away, however the decison not to book the Rammy midfielder once again ruffled the home suporters feathers.
As the half hour mark approached, the home side were enjoying territorial supremecy, ableit without dirtying Ashtons gloves, there was the sense they felt their leverge of down-hill play needed to be profited from and began to up the tempo and regularity of balls into the final third, and as Elliot Rokka rode two challanges and established well earnt space at the edge of the area his attempt to break the deadlock left Sam Ashton flat footed, he could do nothing as the ball rolled to an open goal. Again, the gods were shining on the visitors, as the ball bounced off the bottom of the left hand post and the recovering defenders cleared the danger.
That, however, did not dis-hearten the hosts, and the next 10 minutes would become a personnal dual between Radcliffe and Sam Ashton, as he thwarted them four times to keep the scores level. Before Ashton took centre stage, there was still time for Owolabi to leave Thompson in his dust as he sped away down the left, this time Lugsden was on hand to clear the danger.
The first showing of Ashtons cat-like reactions came as a result of Rokka again getting free down the left and sending a cross towards the 6 yard line for Ben Warton to have a free point blank header only to be denied by the visiting keeper and immediatley turned the follow up header from Owolabi round the post for a Radcliffe corner.
A minute later a free kick escaped the Rammy defence which allowed Owolabi and Ashton to contest the high ball, which was punched clear, only for Williams to react first, and become the latest to find Ashton’s reactions in fine fettle.
The final effort of the half came in stoppage time as Rokka tried his luck from the edge of the box, only to have his hopes dashed by the excellent Ashton.
Half-time Radcliffe Boro 0 Ramsbottom United 0
The second half began in the same veign as the first, with rushed passes and little time to express ones-self. Rother again, was adjudged to have won the ball unfairly which gave Radcliffe their first attempt on the Rammy goal. The resulting set peice was again headed into the magnetic grasp of Sam Ashton.
A free kick for the vistors on the hour which was sent long by Kennedy and cleared by the home defence, looped more up than away, had Evangelinos dreaming of tomorrows back pages as he met the falling ball full on, unfortunatley, his vollied effort was closer to smashing through a nearby greenhouse than any tabloid space.
The down-hill adavntage which was with the home side in the first half was clear to see in the away sides play in the second, as they started to enjoy more time out of their half, and began to ask half questions of Radcliffe. A good crisp inter-change of passes between Jacobs and Moran allowed a couple of crosses which were dealt with by the home backline, and for Rother to chance his arm from twenty yards but send his effort high and wide.
A rare forray into the Rammy half for Radcliffe in the second half saw a free kick awarded on the right hand edge of the area. Metcalfe again smelt an opportunity to test the score line, and his thunderous effort possibly deserved better but again, Ashton stood strong and pushed away his attempt.
Conceivably, Ramsbottoms best chance came by the way of a mix up between Radcliffes keeper and defender. As Kennedy swung in a free kick after Jacobs had been felled, the initial danger was dealt with, but when the Rams won back possession, a clever reverse pass for Moran, who was retreating from an offside position left the ball, Evangelions pounced on the uncertaintly in Radcliffes back line and somehow gained possession, but from a tight angle was only able to hit the side netting.
70 minutes in, and the first activity from the bench saw Bembo-Leto and Gooden replaced by Kieran Lugsden and Ruben Jerome.
Another half hearted appeal for a penalty came on 76 minutes when Eddie Moran felt aggrieved as he came off worse during a challenge in the box, again the referee waved away any protests and the game continued. Almost immediatley, Owolabi raced clear of Kennedy and from the by-line set a ball rolling accross the six yard line and any Radcliffe man who’d gambled would have had his easiest goal of the campaign. Much to the relief of the men in red and black that wasn’t the case and Lugsden was able to bring the ball out.
The final fifteen minutes was littered with possessional errors and more mis-placed, over hit, under hit, wayward passes. Neither team found any fluency or fluidity in their play, and really was a day when both defences came out on top. Credit to Radcliife for nulifying a Rams front line who would fancy scoring against any opposition, and a final mention for Rams keeper Sam Ashton who played his part more than most in keeping Radcliffe at bay.
As the full time whistle blew and results from elsewhere filtered through, it became apparant the Radcliffe had indeed cemented their place in the end of season play offs – well done to them, and good luck. Ramsbottom, however still need one last win to guaruntee their fate, but a run of fourteen away games without defeat shows how much this side has improved since early season, and heading into the closing weekend of the season knowing a win would confirm their own place in the play offs is something most Rams fans would have found hard to comprehend as summer turned to autumn.
Full time Radcliffe Boro 0 Ramsbottom United 0
Rams team: Ashton, Kennedy, Jacobs, Thompson, Kelvin Lugsden, Moran, Rother, Bembo-Leta (Jerome 73′), Gooden (Kieran Lugsden 73′), Evangelinos, Rainford.
Not used: Osi-Efa, Ellison, Donaldson