Evo-Stik West Division
Saturday 30th March 2019
RUNCORN LINNETS 1 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2
Report by Jon Haslam
Ramsbottom United looked to respond to their midweek home reversal to Newcastle with a visit to a Runcorn side who were a single place above the Rams prior to kick off as the top four sides went head to head on Saturday on what could prove to be a pivotal weekend as the season draws to its conclusion.
The visitors starting line up had a more familiar look to it with four alterations from Tuesday night as Sam Ashton returned between the sticks with Kelvin Lugsden available after suspension as both Jamie Rother and Ruben Jerome also claimed a starting berth.
With both teams looking to consolidate their respective positions in the end of season play offs the contest began with the Millbank Linnets Stadium bathed in spring sunshine , the opening quarter of an hour was devoid of any serious attempts at goal as both sides looked to claim midfield supremacy on a noticeably dry and bouncy surface but in truth just cancelled each other out.
There were almost twenty minutes played before the first serious moment of concern in either penalty area when a Tom Kennedy free kick found Luke Thompson at the far post but the under pressure defender couldn’t quite get his header on target as the attempt bounced just past home keepers Perrin near post.
Shortly afterwards the Rams appeared to be getting into their now familiar stride away from The Riverside as the combative Eddie Moran won a strong tackle in midfield before floating a cross towards leading scorer Nic Evangelinos but the headed attempt drifted over the crossbar much to the relief of the on loan Wigan Athletic goal keeper.
Then with almost a third of the encounter played the breakthrough occurred when a long ball forward from Runcorn wasn’t dealt with by the Rams defence and recent acquisition Mitchell Bryant capitalised on the visitors defensive hesitancy by sending a low shot past Sam Ashton from the edge of the penalty area to give the hosts the lead with their first attempt on target.
Ramsbottom who were on an astonishing run of twelve games unbeaten matches away from home responded positively with new addition Spencer Harris testing Perrin with a long range effort which caused the home stopper to spill the effort but as Eddie Moran looked to pick up the rebound the referee decided a foul had occurred and blew up for a free kick.
Not to be deterred the Rams restored parity ten minutes before the interval when a Tom Kennedy cross into the penalty area was inexplicably handled by Runcorns number four Peter Wylie and referee Duckworth spotted the offence having no choice but to point to the penalty spot, up stepped leading marksman Nic Evangelinos to exact full punishment by drilling the penalty past the despairing dive of Perrin to level the contest at one goal each.
With little goalmouth action to report for the remaining minutes the sides went into the half time break unable to be separated which perhaps was indicative of a competitive first 45 minutes between two well matched teams that most observers would concur was a fair score line at the interval.
The opening minutes of the second period were largely uneventful from an attacking perspective with the home side appearing to prefer the longer ball forward, although Runcorn did have the first effort towards goal from distance but the wayward effort failed to trouble the relatively under worked Sam Ashton and sailed over the crossbar.
Ramsbottom then almost took the lead on 52 minutes when a superb ball forward from the wand like left foot of Tom Kennedy found the surging run of midfield dynamo Eddie Moran and with Perrin hurtling from his goal the Rams midfielder got to the ball first and looped a header over the onrushing keeper but sadly for the visitors the ball bounced fractionally wide of the post much to the relief of the home contingent.
Moments later the speedy Iyrwah Gooden entered the fray at the expense of Ruben Jerome before Linnets tested Sam Ashton with a well struck free kick which was easily dealt with by the returning number one and with both sides searching for the next goal of a well fought encounter the contest began to at last have a more open feel to it with the Rams looking menacing on the break.
Runcorn again threatened when some positive play down the home sides right flank saw an effort from the apron of the penalty area narrowly fly over the visitors crossbar as the hosts sought to increase the points difference between the two play off hopefuls. With just over an hour played the Rams perhaps had their best chance of the second period when Tom Kennedy stepped up to take a centrally positioned free kick some 20 yards from goal but the low effort missed the target as the former Bury full back looked for to replicate his exquisite free kick in the reverse fixture in December.
Then with three quarters of a tight contest played some purposeful play down the right hand side from Eddie Moran resulted in the midfielder finding some room to send in an inviting low cross which perhaps inevitably fell to goal poacher Jamie Rainford who confidently stroked home his 17th league goal for the Rams from close range much to the joy of the travelling Ramsbottom supporters.
Incidentally a point worthy of note is that the strike from Jamie Rainford was the seventh away match in succession that the well travelled marksman has scored in again proving what a vital addition the forward has been for Ramsbottom United.
Chris Willock then looked to his bench for the second time with twenty minutes remaining when the tireless Jamie Rother was replaced by Kieran Lugsden.
The remainder of the encounter saw Runcorn looking to push forward looking for a leveller with the Rams forward trio of Rainford, Evangelinos and Gooden keeping the home defence honest as the visitors looked for a match clinching third goal on the breakaway.
In truth the defensive unit for the visitors were at their combative best with the impressive partnership in central defence of Luke Thompson and Kelvin Lugsden ably assisted by the ultra consistent full backs of Jacobs and Kennedy who almost seemed to relish the increasingly competitive nature of the contest.
As the minutes ticked away Runcorns frustrations began to surface as the home side picked up four yellow cards in a little over ten minutes as despite their best efforts the Linnets couldn’t find a pathway through to test Sam Ashton in the day trippers goal.
With the hosts progressively throwing men forward there was an opportunity for the Rams to seal the points when a strong run from Evangelinos stretched the Linnets rearguard once more but with alternative options available the clubs leading scorer decided to take a shot at goal but the effort flew wide of the target.
The remaining minutes were managed superbly by the Rams with the home side unable to fashion any more worthwhile efforts at goal and as the final whistle sounded a valuable three points on the road against a play off rival had and in some way avenged the 2-3 reverse earlier on in the season at the Riverside in a fiery encounter.
As the players and fans celebrated a potentially important yet well deserved victory manager Chris Willcocks outfit have now gone thirteen away matches unbeaten with a hugely impressive eleven victories in the win column during this period as the Rams leaped a place above their hosts for the day to sit in third position after the weekends results
, Ramsbottom United:- Ashton, Kennedy, Jacobs, Moran, Thompson, Kelvin Lugsden, Jerome (Gooden 55 mins), Rother (Kieran Lugsden 70 mins), Rainford, Harris, Evangelinos
Unused Subs- Donaldson, Bembo-Leto, Schofield