Hardworking Lairds punish woeful Rams

The elements were not on their own in an attempt to disrupt this fixture, for a couple of curses arrived at the Kirklands Ground on a miserable afternoon, in more ways than one.

The Rams had just picked up the award of “Club of the Month” for January for their fine run of victories. On the first day of February, they lost.

The hosts were presented before the game with an award based on their excellent disciplinary record. They had five players booked and one sent off.

It was one of those afternoons.

With the visitors defending against a fierce gale in the first half, they did well to repel the Lairds and reduce their chances to a minimum, whilst making whatever headway they could against the driving rain.

Indeed, it was the Rams who almost opened the scoring in the first minute, but Lee Gaskell could only head Grant Spencer’s free-kick wide.

Gaskell it was, who came closest for the visitors when he saw his header from Spencer’s corner, clip the top of the bar and bounce over, as chances during the first 45 minutes were few and far between.

It looked as though both sides were about to go in at the break goal-less, but with just seconds to go, the Lairds broke the duck. A long, wind assisted punt down the left found Craig Cairns, and he flicked the ball over the advancing Grant Shenton in the Rams goal for Jamie Henders to convert despite the close attentions of Owen Roberts.

The second half was barely two minutes old when the Rams grabbed an equaliser.

A low ball into the box from the right saw the first effort cleared off the line, but Gary Stopforth pounced on the loose ball to fire home from six yards to restore parity.

That joy, however, was short lived, for just three minutes later the hesitant Rams defence presented Cairns with the easiest of opportunities to put the home side back in front.

The ball was somehow allowed to be crossed from the left. Shenton and his defenders seemed wrong-footed, and Cairns merely slammed the ball home, unmarked, from ten yards out.

To frustrate the Rams even further, the wild wind that had disadvantaged them so much in the first half had died down, allowing the home side much more of the play than they would have expected.

Chances, again, were at a premium, as both sides attempted, without much success, to play their passing games. Whilst the Rams had the pressure, they rarely looked like breaching the home defence, whilst at the other end, Ritchie Foulkes should have sewn the game up when Shenton failed to cut out a cross from the right, and as the ball landed at his feet, he only succeeded in planting his shot wide.

The referee was hardly helping matters. After stressing that he would make allowances for the conditions, he dished out cards like confetti during the second half, yet there was barely a bad tackle in the whole game.

In time added on, Gaskell had the best of the Rams second half chances, but he failed to put the ball away, and the final whistle sounded on a poor game played in miserable conditions on a wretched afternoon.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Shenton, Hulme, Roberts, Stopforth, Pilkington, Priestley, Spencer (Green 65mins), Burton, Gaskell, Denham, Dean (Fitzgerald 80mins). Subs not used: Toth, Morley