It will be interesting to see, in the coming weeks, how the Rams carry the weight of expectation from this result because this was an assured win over a team on a good run.
Let it be clear that on this form, the Rams are serious challengers for promotion. They dominated possession throughout but having fallen behind after only 11 minutes to the visitors’ only effort on target, for the next 50 minutes it looked as if Grantham would take the long and winding road back to Lincolnshire with all three points.
As is too often the case, the goal was a function of self inflicted harm. Grant Shenton failed to heed Steve Howson’s shout to come and get the ball and was fortunate to see the referee award a corner rather than a penalty as he barreled into Paul Grimes. The Rams then should have known better than to leave a diminutive Stefan Bilyk free as a bird to the six-yard line with the easiest of headers.
For the remainder of the half, with Tom Williams and Phil Dean well shackled down the flanks, most of the Rams’ play came through Grant Spencer but the final ball and first touch too often went astray. He could have worked the keeper harder when clean through only to see his shot saved and Phil Dean went for power rather than direction and sliced wide from a promising position.
Apart from that, for all their intricate play, the Rams did not look like scoring. Jordan Hulme was given little help and no time at all on the ball by a pair of towering defenders and crosses went either direct to their heads, the goalkeepers hands or for no-one at all.
There is, though, something about the Rams refusal to give up. What was looking like a very hard day turning into a sorry night suddenly changed into renewed optimism when, seven minutes into the second half, Scott Burton’s instant pass found Dominic Smalley flying into acres of space wide on the right to send a beautiful dreamer of a shot across the keeper and into the corner of the net. All of a sudden, Jordan Hulme broke the chains and was here, there and everywhere. The crowd were saying that it won’t be long before a second goal came and 10 minutes later, Hulme obliged with a low shot inside the near post, having wriggled and wormed his way into space on the edge of the area.
Grantham abandoned their deep sitting approach in search of an equaliser but failed to bring any sustained pressure and on 90 minutes, they were unable to get back in response to a quick break. Hulme found substitute Jon Robinson in the box who, untroubled by an semblance of marking, made no mistake.
There was still a chance in added time for more misery to be heaped on the visitors with Lee Gaskell being unceremoniously upended in the penalty area but Hulme’s spot kick ballooned over the stand leaving the Rams searching for a consistent penalty taker.
A fourth goal would have been unfair on Grantham, who, in the end, were glad all over to hear the final whistle.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED team: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Lee Pugh, Gary Stopforth, Steve Howson, Cedric Krou, Tom Williams, Scott Burton, Jordan Hulme, Grant Spencer, Phil Dean. Subs: Jon Robinson (for Williams 84mins); Lee Gaskell (for Spencer 75mins), Osebi Abadaki, Alex Piacentile, David Kuba-Kuba.
Goals: Dominic Smalley (53), Jordan Hulme (64), Jon Robinson (90)