Bet Victor Northern Premier League North West Division

Saturday 4th January 2020

Ramsbottom United 3 Pickering Town 2

Attendance: 262

Report by Nigel Jepson

According to the form-book, this should have been a cakewalk for the home team. After all, Pickering Town had suffered eleven straight away defeats out of eleven while Ramsbottom United had won their last four matches on the bounce notching up 22 goals in the process.

Tear up the form-book! Over the ninety minutes the Pikes gave as good as they got and the Rams had to fight every inch of the way before emerging winners by a slender 3-2 margin. From the start, the Rams’ normal high quality passing game was too rarely in evidence and there seemed overmuch emphasis on mounting unproductive moves down the right hand side.

Indeed throughout the match, the Rams’ main threat was to come from set pieces. The opening goal for example came when Luke Thompson escaped his marker, nipping in at the near post to connect with an inswinging Tom Kennedy corner after 13 minutes.

The goal seemed to sting the opposition to life and Pickering Town launched a series of raids on the Rammy goal. Their wide players, particularly Danny Earl, seemed to enjoy acres of space and showing good turn of speed swept through the Rams’ defence bringing the keeper into action more often than he might have anticipated.

Bradley Wade, on loan from Rochdale to cover for an injury to Tom Stewart, stood up to this baptism of fire bravely showing excellent reflexes and shot-stopping ability. Finally though after 42 minutes Pike pressure told when Flynn McNaughton went on a marauding run down the left before checking back inside and drilling home a right foot shot to make it 1-1. An evenly-contested first half left the Rams needing to re-group and re-think.

Fresh impetus for the home team came through substitutions made early in the second half. Sprinting beyond his marker, Iyrwah Gooden was blatantly tripped up with the referee pointing to the spot and Kennedy coolly converting to make it 2-1 after 64 minutes. With the Rams’ passing ability improving in the second half, it was again though from a set piece that a two-goal lead was carved out after 78 minutes following a right-foot blockbuster of a free-kick from Nic Evangelinos that screamed past a helpless defensive wall and keeper with the power and accuracy of an Exocet missile.

Another defender’s trip – the Pikes incurred five yellow cards in all to two shown to Rams players on the day – saw the ref again with little choice other than to award another penalty but this time Kennedy’s spot-kick was too close to the keeper who palmed it away.

Pickering also brought on subs and one, Ryan Cooper, announced his presence with a lofted wedge shot from a good 35 metres out which surprised everyone including the home keeper to reduce the lead to 3-2 with six minutes still left on the watch.

In the end, the Rams were relieved to hear the final whistle. Today’s experience could be looked at in two ways. Three points were achieved on a day – when the four main other contenders were pegged to draws – lifting the team to second place in the table. However, the lacklustre nature of their first-half performance ought to be seen as a warning-sign against any risk of complacency creeping in to the mindset. No doubt sterner tests lie ahead which will determine final placings at the end of the season.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Wade, Fishwick, Kennedy (capt), Moran, Thompson, Lugsden, Jones (Gooden 53′), Hmami (Naidole 79′), Jerome, Baker (Rother 54′), Evangelinos. Subs not used: Fawns, Hampson.

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