REPORT: Radcliffe 3 Rams 0: Play-off semi final

Ramsbottom United saw their promotion dream come to an end as they were beaten 3-0 by Jon Macken’s Radcliffe side in The Bury Metro Derby.

Scott Metcalfe’s first half header was followed up by strikes from forwards Tunde Owolabi and Ben Wharton as Radcliffe victory booked themselves a spot in the divisions play-off final.

Chris Willcock made two changes to the side held by Kidsgrove on Saturday. Joel Bembo Leta and Iyrwah Gooden were replaced by Ryan Ellison and Jason Carey in the starting eleven.

Radcliffe made the brighter start to the game, creating numerous chances to open the scoring. Tunde Owolabi was the leading threat for Boro in the opening exchanges as The Blues began the match on the front front. Owolabi saw several opportunities come and go, first heading wide from a Craig Lindfield corner then again heading wide shortly after from a similar goalscoring position.

Wearing their red away kit, set pieces looked the most likely way of scoring for Rammy as they looked to find a way past Ollie Martin in the Radcliffe goal. From a free kick Luke Thompson rose highest in The Boro backline but failed to direct his header on target. In another attempt, Tom Kennedy sent a free kick into the wall after Nic Evangelinos was fouled just outside the Radcliffe penalty box.

From open play Jamie Rainford scuffed a shot which was well covered by Martin, but Boro would soon take the lead from a Craig Lindfield free kick. Radcliffe’s number seven’s cross was initially cleared by the Rammy backline, yet the follow up ball courtesy of Prince Haywood was headed home at the back post by Radcliffe’s number eleven Scott Metcalfe on the 40 minute mark.

The Rams saw out the reminder of the half with little trouble, although Radcliffe’s right back Kyle Harrison appealed a penalty for handball. Referee Peter Shacklady waved away all appeals as the half ended with a one goal advantage to the home side.

Radcliffe were again quicker out the blocks in the second half, the uphill slanting pitch clearly of no hindrance to Macken’s men. Harrison forced Sam Ashton into a finger tipping save, turning the ball over the bar as the right back looked for the top corner with a curling shot.

But Rammy were to be less fortunate immediately after as Radcliffe doubled their lead after 55 minutes. Owolabi was slipped a wonderful through ball by skipper Kingsley Williams and the number 10 wasn’t to be found wanting in front of goal as he rounded Ashton to take the Boro a step closer to the upcoming play off final.

The Rams were now on thin ice and another superb Ashton save prevented Radcliffe from going three up. Owolabi twisted and turned past several Rammy defenders, yet Ashton was an equal match for the frontman.

However Owolabi continued to cause problems for the Rammy back line as Radcliffe again saw a penalty call turned down.

Ashton was adjudged to have brought down Owolabi but like Harrison’s first half call Shacklady refused to award the home side a spot kick.

Ramsbottom looked brighter going forward as the second half progressed and seemed the more likely to halve the scoreline deficit. First Jason Carey’s attempt on goal was beaten away, before substitute Iyrwah Gooden saw an effort fly wide of the target.

Then against the run of play Boro scored the third and final goal of the semi final. On 77 minutes Ben Wharton coolly chipped the ball over the head of Ashton as the Rammy backline could only watch the ball trickle over the line.

Willcock’s side continued to look dangerous going forward despite Radcliffe causing problems on the counter attack. Both Jamie Rother and Nic Evangelinos had efforts blocked in and around the goalmouth, but the Blues defence was able to clear the danger easily.

Radcliffe were able to see out the remainder of the match and ran out well-deserved winners. It was Ramsbottom’s first away defeat in league action under manager Willcock as they ended the season with a feeling of disappointment. Yet the turn of form since the management takeover last October gives hope that in twelve months’ time the club will be in a similar position once again.

Ramsbottom: Ashton, Kennedy (c), Jacobs, Moran, Thompson, Kelvin Lugsden, Ellison (Gooden 70’), Rother, Rainford (Jerome 76’), Carey, Evangelinos Un-used subs: Bembo Leta, Donaldson, Osi-Efa