Road to Wembley ends in Barrow

Ramsbottom United bowed out of this year’s FA Cup competition in somewhat contentious circumstances.

BARROW AFC 3-0 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED

Whilst being unable to bridge the two division gap between the two sides, the Rams went out to three goals, all of which had an element of questionability.

Yet for the first half-hour, the Evo-Stik North side had looked the equals of the more illustrious Skrill North outfit.

As early as the second minute Owen Roberts attempted a cheeky free-kick aiming for the unmarked side of the goal whilst everyone was expecting the ball to be floated into the middle of the penalty area.

Shortly afterwards, Phil Dean raced thirty yards down the centre of the pitch before firing in from the edge of the box, only to see the ball clear the bar by inches.

At the other end, Barrow’s Greg Mills sent in a beauty which beat Grant Shenton in the Rams’ goal, but bounced back into play off the bar.

Mills then fed Alex Meechan, but his turn and shot from 20 yards sailed past the post.

Jon Robinson then had a glorious chance to open the scoring when he raced onto a defence-splitting ball from Roberts. Twice home keeper Tony McMillan denied him as the ball eventually sailed out for a corner.

On 27 minutes the home side edged in front.

What looked like a Ramsbottom throw was controversially awarded the other way, and whilst the Rams’ players were still questioning the decision, the ball broke for Mills who thumped it home from the edge of the box.

Dominic Smalley cut in with a fine run that left a couple of the home defenders well beaten, and as he played the ball back, Roberts fired in from 30 yards but was just off target.

The home side, buoyed by the goal gradually started asking questions of the Rams defence, and Mills again went close before Shenton produced the save of the match. A free-kick, some 25 yards out, from Sam Sheridan, looked destined for the top corner before a wonderful one-handed save turned the ball round for a corner. From the resultant kick, Robbie Williams should have doubled the lead when he met the ball at the far post, only to head it the wrong side of the woodwork.

As the visitors looked to the break with just a one goal deficit, they were struck another blow.

The ball was played into the area, and as Danny Warrender sought to protect his face, the referee deemed that he had deliberately handled the ball, and pointed to the spot. Meechan hammered home the spot kick on 44 minutes.

The second half saw very little from the Rams’ front men, with most of the chances falling for the home team.

Mills, a constant threat, slid inside but saw his effort clear the post, before a fine run down the left wing by Paul Edwards ended with him crossing the ball which Sheridan headed just wide.

Paddy Lacy then got in on the act with two long range efforts within sixty seconds. The first one from fully forty yards missed the bar by inches and clipped the top of the netting, before a low drive sailed straight at Shenton.

Lee Gaskell lost the ball in midfield, and as it was fed through to Gareth Arnison, the Barrow striker was unlucky to see his shot rebound off the visitors bar.

On 75 minutes, it was game over with the most contentious decision of the afternoon.

Andy Dawson pulled off what looked like a brilliant clearance, as he appeared to whip the ball off the toe of a Barrow forward who was bearing down on goal. With everyone expecting a corner, the referee, after discussions with his linesman, pointed to the spot and produced a red card for a disbelieving Dawson. Grant Spencer was also booked in the ensuing protests, but once the arguments had died down, Meechan buried the spot kick to finish off any faint chance the Rams may have had.

Substitute Nick Rushton could have inflicted more misery on the Lancashire side in the final minute but Shenton pulled off an excellent double save to deny him.

The main talking point of the afternoon was the severity of Dawson’s dismissal, which the referee confirmed was for taking the striker’s standing leg and not the ball, but result-wise the Rams could have little to complain about as the Cumbrians deservedly moved into the next round.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Hulme (Edghill 78mins), Roberts, Stopforth (Toth 78mins), Dawson, Warrender, Smalley (Brooks 57mins), Spencer, Gaskell, Robinson, Dean. Subs not used: Morley, Johnson.