Late show grabs three at Northwich

Ramsbottom United played the “Get out of Jail” card when a late goal from substitute debutant Chris Denham saw them claim the three points that they had looked like throwing away.

After an uncertain start, the Rams dominated most of the first half, opening up a two goal lead, but a disappointing second period saw the deficit overturned by a Vics side which looked capable of claiming a victory that had looked unlikely as they enjoyed their half-time cuppa.

The visitors almost scored in the third minute when a low cross from Hyde loanee Andrew Fitzgerald fell for Lee Gaskell close to goal, but he could only scoop the ball over the bar.

Sixty seconds later, they were made to pay. A woefully short back-pass from Owen Roberts left keeper Grant Shenton exposed, and despite his best efforts to retrieve the situation, Ashley Stott gratefully waltzed around the grounded custodian and stroked the ball home.

Having nervously suppressed the early Northwich pressure, the visitors gradually began to exert themselves.

Grant Spencer made space on the edge of the box but saw his shot blocked, before some neat inter-passing between Phil Dean and Gaskell saw the home defence happy to concede a corner.

On 14 minutes the game could have changed dramatically. With the Rams attacking, they cried out for a penalty in a goal-mouth scramble, but as the referee shook his head, the ball was cleared downfield, leaving Shenton once again exposed. This time, however, he produced a magnificent save to deny the Vics what looked like a certain second goal.

Two minutes later, United levelled the scores.

Spencer’s run into the box ended with him flying through the air, and after dusting himself down, he confidently hammered home the resultant spot-kick.

Five minutes later the game turned on it’s head. Darren Green chased a through ball, looking suspiciously offside, but the linesman kept his flag down, and he drove the ball past Tim Deasy in the home goal to give the Rams the lead.

The visitors were suddenly looking rampant, and further efforts came from Green with a 25 yard pile-driver that sailed just wide, and Gaskell who chased a weak back-pass but Deacy denied him.

A fine move down the left wing found Roberts and his dangerous cross ball found the head of Joel Pilkington, but the ball sailed inches over the top.

The home side almost levelled matters when an excellent free-kick from Marc Joseph looked to be heading for the top corner only for Shenton to produce another magnificent save as he tipped the ball round the post.

On 37 minutes the Rams went 3-1 up. Substitute Jordan Hulme raced down the right wing before sending over a low cross from the by-line to the unmarked Gaskell, who slipped the ball past Deasy from 3 yards out.

Pilkington was just wide at the end of some sustained pressure, whilst at the other end Alex Taylor was denied by a deflection as he stole in on goal.

Despite starting the second half in a similar vein, with Hulme and Spencer going close, the Vics, having made three quick substitutions, suddenly began to take the game to the Rams.

Shenton was again called upon to produce yet another first-class save as Brian Summerskill’s 25 yard drive looked destined for the top corner.

Northwich were now pushing the Rams back, and it came as no surprise when they halved the deficit on 66 minutes.

With the defenders looking for offside, Gary Burnett made the most of a ball into the box, and he slotted the ball home to make the score 3-2.

Burnett was then desperately unlucky when his lofted shot clipped the top of the crossbar, with Shenton well beaten, and bounced behind for a goal-kick.

The writing had been on the wall for some time, and the home side deservedly drew level on 72 minutes. A static defence watched as Michael Clarke found space in the box to rifle the ball home from ten yards, at which point there only looked like being one winner.

Gaskell tried to instil some life into a listless Ramsbottom side, with a low drive from 20 yards, but Deasy easily dealt with it.

Burnett, meanwhile, must have thought he’d won the game when he flicked a cross from the right goalwards, but the ball ended up in the side netting.

At this point, the visitors looked relieved to be still in with a chance of a point, but a further twist was to follow.

With just two minutes of normal time remaining, the Rams snatched an unlikely winner.

Another debutant substitute, Ashley Reece held off a couple of challenges before threading the ball through to Gaskell on the right hand side of the area. Gaskell steadied himself before sending over an inch-perfect cross for Denham to nod home from close range to make the score 4-3.

The added minutes were played out without any real danger of a final twist, and the Rams came off the field in the knowledge that a dominant thirty minute spell in the first half had garnered the points that Northwich would have felt were deservedly theirs.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Fitzgerald(Hulme 17mins), Roberts, Stopforth, Lacy, Priestley, Spencer(Denham 56mins), Pilkington,Haskell, Green, Dean(Reece 77mins) Subs not used: Toth, Brooks