This result and more so the performance on the night is final proof, if any were needed, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel not even of a train coming the other way. There is no way out of avoiding relegation for the Rams.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 0 SKELMERSDALE UNITED 3
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 24 February 2016
With all due respect to Skelmersdale, who have had problems of their own not dissimilar to those inflicted upon the Rams, they are not at present a particularly strong or skilful team as their league position might suggest but the comparison between them on the night and the Rams is all too easily made – they had 11 men all able to make a contribution by being played in positions of which they had an understanding of and were comfortable in and with basic organisational skills – not least how to mark a man.
For the Rams, Prince Haywood, forced into playing at right back due to injury was a fish out of water and was run ragged all night, too easily forced off the ball, getting the wrong side and diving into the tackle and at the other end, Luke Heron on the left and Danny Wilkins up front were unable to get into or bring any influence to the game.
There were some bright spots. Aaron Smith, returning after a long injury lay off looked energetic turning neatly and producing several forceful runs towards the heart of the visitors defence but without being a run in front of him that offered an outcome and Joel Melia had the beating at will of his full back but any number of enticing low crosses found only a penalty area largely devoid of attackers. Tom Coulson started brightly but seemed unsure of the role he was supposed to be playing and this left Alex Meaney trying to be his usual finger in the dam as waves of Skelmersdale counter attacks flooded past him.
It is just as well that Kevin McGrath and Dylan Smith – a promising young centre half, were resolute and Andy Smart solid in every sense of the word.
Once the pace of the game picked up from a low key and lower paced start, only a series of last ditch tackles and the intervention of the underside of the bar kept the Rams level – but only until the 20th minute when a mixture of weak and missed tackles allowed the ball to find its way to Chris Almond who curled the ball into the top corner from just inside the box.
The score remained that way until just after the resumption. A promising Rams attack broke down and a long ball forward should have been innocuous except the Rams midfield allowed Robbie Booth to run past them, pick up the second ball, released Almond who danced his way past the defence and scored easily.
The Rams made changes to little effect mainly due to a lack of positional discipline. Jake Cliffe came on to replace Coulson in the middle but spent so much time wide left that one wondered why he had not been started there in the first place. For a period of 20 minutes Booth ran the game through the simple expedient of being able to stand still in space, receive the ball untroubled by marking and hit simple balls into gaps.
The Rams were unable to must a shot on target until the 85th minutes when Smart found Wilkins free with a brilliant cross field ball but the striker dallied too long and his under hit shot was comfortably saved by Martin Fearon. By this time, and reflecting the uncertainty who then had to do significantly better to turn a strong shot from Smith over the bar.
By this stage, the visitors were approaching the game with some undue caution keeping five men back and only committing two to the box on a series of attacking corners. In the last minute of added time, the Rams coughed up possession in midfield and Almond was all on for a hat-trick until Prince beat him to the ball in a despairing tackle which served only to deflect it past Grant Shenton – a suitable finale to a depressing game.
Having stood by the technical area for the whole of the match, it would be unfair and inappropriate to repeat here some of the things being said and shouted to the players but the management team really needs to reflect why some of those things had to be shouted out during the heat of a match rather than sorted out in training or whether they should need to be said at all to players recruited and selected at this level.
Perhaps a harsh observation but regretfully fair.