REPORT by Frank Crook / PHOTOS by Frank Crook, Olivia Harman & Jake Horrocks
Right from the start, United showed intent. In the first minute, Danny O’Brien released Sefton Gonzales in on goal only for the Pontefract keeper to block his shot.
Even though unusually for him, Gonzales was being marked by a defender taller than himself, the striker kept on imposing himself, being a handful both in approach play and in the box.
However, it was O’Brien who did the damage with goals in the 12th and 15th minutes that bore uncanny likeness. Both involved him cutting in from the left wing before unleashing thunderbolt shots from 20 metre-plus range. The first was a fiercely dipping shot which went straight over the keeper’s head but firmly into the back of the net. The second was flatter in trajectory but hammered home inside the far post.
Without Pontefract showing much in the way of attacking ideas themselves, it looked as if the flood-gates might open for the home team. United’s style of play at this stage was very fluent and penetrating, even more impressive for the fact this was against a side with a good defensive record from last season. For a large part of this first half, the Pontefract defence remained under siege and was fortunate not to concede further goals.
The only chance the away side had was thwarted after Dharius Waldron pulled off a marvellously, well-timed last ditch tackle to deny the opposition striker capitalising on a miskick from United’s otherwise very sound keeper Bellagambi.
United’s continued monopoly of possession led to a series of corners towards half-time but the nearest they came to increasing their lead was when Tony Donaldson’s effort struck the crossbar.
Half-time: Ramsbottom United 2 Pontefract Collieries 0
The second half started without any discernible pattern to play except for a nagging awareness that the away team seemed to be enjoying a more even amount of possession. The feeling began to grow that they only needed to score to make this game a competition again. Windows of opportunity seemed to open up for Pontefract through a number of careless free-kicks conceded that could have cost United on another day if they had been put to better use.
However, in the event, it was to be another bit of magic from Danny O’Brien that was to widen the gap between the two sides still further, this time the winger acting as provider. An elusive run down the left ended with him squaring a ball across the face of goal for the well-placed Sefton Gonzales to tap in at the far post to stretch the lead to 3-0 after 65 minutes.
With the match outcome seemingly in the bag now, opportunity was taken to give the subs on the bench a run-out, with Gonzales, O’Brien and midfield anchor-man Richie Baker all giving way to fresh legs after the decisive, third goal had been netted.
Gladly, the pressure was maintained with Jake Thompson connecting with a powerful volley that went a whisker the wrong side of the far post. Otherwise, the always intelligent prompting of captain Tom Kennedy kept United on the front foot.
Visitors Pontefract looked relieved in the end for the final whistle to come. As for Rammy, today marked a third successive league win, preserving their position at the top of the table. All round, despite the demanding conditions of heavy rain throughout the day, there was no way in which United’s performance and appetite for the game could be faulted. As well as flair being shown in attack, the defence needs commending for keeping a second clean sheet running in the league. More of the same attitude in games to come cannot but further strengthen their promotion prospects!
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Bellagambi, Harrison, Kennedy (capt), Waldron, Thompson.L, Baker (Thompson.J 74 mins), Fawns, Rouse, Gonzales (Burns 66 mins), Donaldson, O’Brien (Rodney 69 mins). Sub not used: Osi-Efa.