All winning teams have a good shape; each team without shape will find a way of losing. So it proved in the depths of the South Yorkshire coalfields on Saturday.
There were few signs of the frightening deterioration that was to follow as the Rams compact and quick of the break swam serenely into a two-goal lead by half-time although in surroundings of Wuthering Heights bleakness, the brooding menace of Danny South leading the line for the home team was all too apparent.
For 45 minutes, the Rams looked assured and confident as first Grant Spencer, playing a sharp one-two on the edge of the box, drew a penalty from the otherwise excellent John Cyrus and neatly converted by Jon Robinson. Then Phil Dean, on for the injured Robinson, broke clear to cross for an unmarked Nelson Mota to head home.
Frickley were quick to respond with tactical changes following the break with their back four playing much deeper to frustrate the Rams, who restarted too slowly. South, together with his partner Gavin Allott, was a commanding presence finding it too easy to pull away from their markers and quicker onto the second ball, getting behind the back four. Once South found space on the penalty spot with a matadors drop of the hips to shoot low into the corner, there was no need for writing on the wall to see what was to come.
South was denied a second only by a brilliant save from Grant Shenton but then scored again on 70 minutes, poking home from close range after the Rams declined several chances to clear. By this time, the Frickley front two were running riot, terrorising at will a Rams defence that was increasingly slow and hesitant to the ball. Three minutes later, it was all up as Cyrus rose unmarked to head home from another needlessly conceded free kick.
After that, it was just a question of how many. The Rams constantly caught in possession failed to muster a shot on goal in the second half and were as all at sea as the group of supporters who had somehow managed to book a one-way coach trip to the game!
South pounced on a weak header back, rounded Shenton, and walked the ball into the net for a well-deserved hat-trick.
As dispiriting the result and performance was, it only goes to prove that there are simply no easy games in this division and there will be few harder places to visit than Frickley. For all that, the Rams will have to find a way to match physically strong direct teams on surfaces that do not aid their quick short passing game.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Grant Shenton (capt), Joel Pilkington, George Grayson, Gary Stopforth, Steven Howson, Cedric Krou, Nelson Mota, Scott Burton, Grant Spencer, Jordan Hulme, Jon Robinson. Subs: Tom Williams (for Mota 74), Sam Cook (for Grayson 74), Phil Dean (for Robinson 28), Bernard Morley, Osebi Abadaki.