REPORT: Brighouse 2 Rams 3

BetVictor Northern Premier League North West Division

Saturday 18th January 2020

Brighouse Town 2 Ramsbottom United 3

Attendance: 207

Report by Jon Haslam

In what was the third away game in a week Ramsbottom United ventured over the Pennines to take on a mid table Brighouse outfit looking to put the midweek Integro cup defeat at the hands of Trafford behind them.

The Rams showed a number of alterations to the starting eleven with regular keeper Tom Stewart replacing Brad Wade between the sticks and also recalls for Reece Fishwick, Tom Kennedy ,Reuben Jerome and leading scorer Nic Evangelinos.

Brighouse were quickest out of the blocks and had the chance to open the scoring with less than five minutes played when a cross from Javelle Clarke found Joe Jagger free in the penalty area and with just Stewart to beat sent a shot high and wide of the target and the visitors breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It didn't take too long for the Rams to respond with Iyrwah Gooden receiving a pass to burst away from his marker but the wingers angled shot was pushed to safety with the help of the home defence.

With the surface proving tricky for both sides and neither outfit finding it easy to produce free flowing football in the opening quarter of an hour the hosts looked to utilise the pace of their two widemen in an attempt to get in behind the away sides defence.

As the opening quarter of the contest ticked away perhaps the most prominent aspect was the referees whistle as a succession of free kicks were awarded which did little to improve the quality of a scrappy encounter.

Ramsbottom United then fashioned their best effort as the mid way point of the half arrived when a quickly taken free kick from skipper Tom Kennedy found Nic Evangelinos whose cross into the danger area wasn't cleared convincingly before falling to midfield dynamo Eddie Moran but the schemers attempt from around the penalty spot bounced wide of the target much to the relief of the home sides rearguard.

Then, with a third of the match played the Red Rose side edged in front when some clever interplay down the right wing saw Evangelinos set up Josh Hmami and the midfielder who has recently extended his load period with the Rams until the end of the campaign from Welsh side TNS sent in a low effort from inside the penalty box which perhaps surprisingly beat the diving Smith to register his eighth goal of an increasingly impressive stint with Chris Willcocks side.

Brighouse would perhaps feel slightly aggrieved after falling behind but responded immediately when a long ball forward caught out the Rams defence and home striker Joe Jagger again found himself with a sight of goal but got no satisfaction when the angular forwards effort sailed closer to the corner flag than the away sides goal.

The remaining time of the first period was played out with neither goalkeeper being seriously tested although Shiraz Khan fired a low shot past Tom Stewarts near post before a moment of concern for Ramsbottom United occurred when skipper Tom Kennedy appeared to go down injured but mercifully the ex Bury and Rochdale full back returned to the fray and the half time refreshments must have tasted sweeter for the travelling Rams supporters as their side held a slender one goal advantage at the interval.

No sooner had the second period began than Brighouse had levelled matters when a forward ball was flicked on by home number nine Jagger which the marauding and unmarked Thomas Haigh latched onto before calmly side stepping the onrushing Tom Stewart before tapping into an empty net.

With the wind in their sails and maybe the managers half time words still at the forefront of their minds Brighouse threatened again when right winger Clarke fired at goal but Stewart was down sharply to deny the ex Sheffield United youngster.

Despite the equaliser the home side smelt blood and took advantage of a slow start to the second half from the visitors by taking the lead with their second goal in little more than three minutes when a long throw found Jagger in the penalty and the forward held off Kelvin Lugsden before cleverly flicking the ball past a surprised Stewart and into the corner of the net much to the delight of the home support who had seen their team turn the match on its head in little more than three minutes after the resumption.

Ramsbottom looked to respond with a series of free kicks which ultimately came without reward although a Gooden header fractionally missed the target and the home defence had to be alert when a Kennedy set piece again caused concern for the hosts but the ball was scrambled to safety much to the frustration of the visitors.

With the Rams looking to confirm their promotion credentials the remaining thirty minutes would need a series of questions answering by the players and management if the away side were to keep pace with Workington at the top of the table as a competitive Brighouse team now had a lead to protect and looked a threat on the counter attack.

As if proof were needed a breakaway down the right hand side almost saw Town increase their lead but Khan couldn't quite control his attempt which skimmed the top of the crossbar and the hosts appeared intent on adding to their lead.

With the midway point reached of a frustrating second half for Willcocks troops hopes were still high that the outcome was far from certain and with the last five outings involving the Rams since the turn of the year containing 25 goals the away supporters were hopeful that more goals were to follow.

Then, with around twenty minutes remaining a double substitution took place which would ultimately change the pattern of an engagingly competitive match when Jamie Rother and former Town player Daniel Naidole replaced Eddie Moran and the ever vocal Richie Baker in the hope of protecting the Rams eleven match unbeaten league run going back to early November.

Immediately after the changes both teams threatened, firstly when the lively Clarke had a well struck effort saved by Tom Stewart at his near post before another Kennedy set piece found Luke Thompson free in the penalty area and despite cleverly controlling the ball with his chest to create some space away from his marker a well struck effort sailed wide of the target and there was perhaps a feeling that this might just be "one of those days"

With just over fifteen minutes to play and the picturesque Yorkshire sun seemingly setting on the Rams chances of victory Mason Fawns replaced Iyrwah Gooden and as has been the case in recent weeks the substitutions made the desired impression. Within moments of entering the field Fawns played a clever pass through to fellow sub Jamie Rother whose well struck low effort brought a fine low save from Smith in the Brighouse gaol but leading scorer Nic Evangelinos reacted quickest to bundle the ball over the line and the visitors had restore parity.

A closer look at the home record of Brighouse, which incidentally can only be bettered by Ramsbottom United, showed that in the previous thirteen league games played at home this season there had been no drawn games, with eight wins and five defeats so the question was,could there be a winner?

The answer to that was an unequivocal yes, as the equalising goal gave Ramsbottom United a boost of confidence and as the clock ticked beyond the eighty minute mark the fifth and decisive goal arrived when some neat passing around the Brighouse area lead to Nic Evanglinos picking up the ball on the left corner of the penalty box before floating a sumptuous cross to the far post where ex Brighouse midfielder Daniel Naidole was on hand to head the ball past the despairing dive of Smith and return to haunt his old team and give the visitors the advantage in a topsy-turvy contest.

The remainder of a competitive encounter saw the hosts push forward ever more desperately but thankfully Ramsbottom United managed to keep the hosts at bay and return to Lancashire with a valuable three point haul.

Such victories are valuable in the pursuit of success but make no mistake this was a hard fought victory against a Brighouse side that would perhaps suggest with some justification that they deserved something from their efforts in a pulsating battle that went one way then the other. Nonetheless the celebrations at the final whistle showed what the win meant to all concerned with Ramsbottom United as their pursuit towards the summit of the league standings come the end of April continues.

Ramsbottom United:- Stewart, Fishwick, Kennedy (Capt), Moran (Rother 70 mins) Thompson, Lugsden, Gooden (Fawns 77 mins), Hmami, Jerome, Baker (Naidole 70 mins), Evangelinos

Unused subs - Jones & Wade (GK)