Muddy battle secures another 3

On a day when many other games were postponed, credit must be due to Clitheroe for ensuring this game went ahead, despite the horrendous conditions.

With Bury’s game at nearby Accrington Stanley called off 40 minutes before kick-off, the usually healthy Rams following was boosted by a number of Shakers fans who were treated to an enthralling game both hindered and helped by the seasonal elements.

The visitors had to twice come from behind before their work ethic finally clinched another three points as their surge into the play-offs continued.

Battling the elements as well as the heavy surface, the Rams almost opened the scoring in the eighth minute when a free-kick from Owen Roberts found the head of Billy Priestley, but the home side saw the post come to their aid, before they, themselves, opened the scoring just five minutes later.

A fine flowing move down the right eventually saw the ball swept out to the unmarked Matt McNamara on the left hand side of the penalty area, and he placed his shot past the exposed frame of Rams keeper Grant Shenton.

The joy was short-lived, however, for within 90 seconds the scores were levelled.

A Grant Spencer free-kick from the right sailed over a crowded penalty area for Jordan Hulme to plant it back into the middle. A half-clearance fell to Chris Denham, and he blasted it home through a ruck of bodies, from 15 yards.

The remainder of the first half saw the ball swing from team to team in the middle of the park, as both sides were struggling to play any sort of decent football.

The closest either came to adding to the score was when United’s Lee Gaskell weaved his way along the edge of the penalty area before finding space to fire goal-wards but saw his shot missed the target by inches.

The second half, however, was much more entertaining, and warmed up the large crowd on a day when hot drinks would have been the only other option.

Both sides went out to give one hundred per cent, with tackles flying in from all directions, leading to seven yellow cards, and the dismissal of one of Clitheroe’s coaching staff.

A high tempo forty-five minutes ensued, which had the result in doubt right until time added on.

Clitheroe struck an early blow when Paul Coote latched on to a through ball before firing past Shenton, who would have been disappointed that he failed to divert the ball for a corner.

This merely fired up the visitors, and five minutes later, on 53 minutes, parity was once again restored.

Having headed a Phil Dean cross a couple of feet wide just before, another through ball found Denham, and he made no mistake as he claimed his, and the Rams, second of the game.

Within sixty seconds, Jordan Hulme was mightily unlucky as he almost put the Rams in front.

Gathering the ball just inside the Clitheroe half, he powered his way past four challenges before dinking the ball past Ben Proctor in goal, but had to look on as the heavy pitch allowed time for a defender to scoop the ball off the line and deny him what would have been one of the goals of the season.

Roberts was inches wide from a free-kick as the visitors upped the pressure, and somehow the home goal remained intact in an almighty goalmouth scramble which eventually saw the ball cleared by a relieved defence.

Denham should have claimed his hat-trick on 72 minutes when played in by Darren Green, as he only had the keeper to beat, but chose to take the ball sidewards and eventually played himself out of position and the danger was cleared.

The visitors were well on top by this stage, and the home goal led a charmed life as first a Spencer free-kick was turned over by Proctor, who was then on hand to gather a Hulme header following a Denham cross.

The ever-dangerous Denham saw his shot deflected for a corner, but from the resultant kick, on 82 minutes, the pressure finally paid off.

Priestley held his head in his hands as his close-range shot was hacked off the line, but moments later, the half-clearance saw the ball returned into the six yard box, and as the attackers out-numbered the defenders, Priestley managed to stab the ball home much to his and his team-mates delight.

It was no more than the visitors deserved, and with the game going into time added on, the game was made safe.

Spencer was up-ended as he raced into the penalty area, and he dusted himself down before sending Proctor the wrong way with his spot-kick to make the final score 4-2.

The Rams have now scored 24 goals in their last five league matches, as the entertainment value continues to attract more and more people, both home and away. The club is the second best supported in the Division, with only former Football League side Darlington attracting more fans.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Hulme, Roberts, Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Spencer, Pilkington, Gaskell, Denham, Dean(Green 65mins). Subs not used: Toth, Fitzgerald, Reece, Morley