Late strikes lift Rams play-off hopes

Ramsbottom United produced a grandstand finish to ensure they grab an invaluable three points that looked to have been snatched from them.

In a dramatic finale, the Rams scored twice to turn the game on it’s head, after a cruel deflection appeared to have handed the points to Warrington Town.

In front of a healthy crowd of 366, both sides were looking to earn a play-off place, with the visitors almost there.

The early chances fell to the Wire with ex-Radcliffe striker Ben Wharton seeing his snap-shot clearing the bar and Scott Metcalfe planting a free-kick inches wide.

At the other end Billy Priestley had a header turned round for a corner from which Scott Burton, on as an early substitute for broken wrist victim Joel Pilkington, nodded the resultant cross a couple of feet wide.

Warrington took the lead in the 18th minute direct from a corner.  David Mannix floated the ball in from the left hand side, and despite home keeper Martin Fearon diving on the ball, the linesman signalled that it had gone over the line.

In what was proving to be an evenly matched contest, the Rams were unlucky not to equalise after 26 minutes.  A through ball from Gary Stopforth fed Dominic Smalley and his cross had Priestley and Lee Gaskell colliding as the ball somehow bounced on to the bar, and a relieved Town defence cleared the danger.

On 36 minutes, the equaliser did arrive.  A free-kick 25 yards out in the centre of the pitch allowed Owen Roberts the opportunity to fire goalwards.  Josh Ollerenshaw in the visiting goal, managed to get a hand to the ball as he dived to his left, but he was unable to keep it out and the scores were level.

Mannix failed to direct the ball goalwards as it fell to him in the area, whilst at the other end Gaskell controlled the ball well before turning but firing a couple of yards wide.

In the second minute of the second half, substitute Lee Pugh gave the ball away, and Wharton raced towards goal but Fearon was equal to the task as he pushed his effort away.

Steve Howson’s header produced a fine save from Ollerenshaw as he clawed the ball away, and Fearon dealt with a similar attempt from Town’s Ciaran Kilheeney, before the Rams began to take the initiative.

Danny Warrender was just too high with a header from a Pugh corner, whilst the latter sent in one of his trademark throw-ins which Jordan Hulme nodded on, but Ollerenshaw was again in the right place.

Despite having the majority of the play, the home side failed to pierce the Town defence, and such failure came back to haunt them in the 80th minute.

What appeared to be a straight-forward save for Fearon, as Carlos Meakin fired in from 25 yards, turned into a disaster, as a deflection completely wrong-footed the custodian, and the ball sailed in to his left to give Warrington a fortuitous lead.

Desperately needing points to stay in contention for the play-offs, it looked as though the Rams were about to blow their chances, until a dramatic last four minutes ensured they would fight on.

On 88 minutes, as Steve Howson made his way into the box, the referee decided that a nudge from Liam Dawson justified him pointing to the spot.  Despite the protests, the decision stood, and leading scorer Lee Gaskell blasted the spot-kick home to level the scores once more.

Whilst a point at this time would have been welcome, the Rams continued to push forward in the hope of snatching all three points.

And snatch them they did, in dramatic style.

Two minutes into time added on, a hopeful shout for another penalty fell on deaf ears, but Scott Burton took matters into his own hands.

As the loose ball bounced around the edge of the box, he let fly and buried it into the bottom corner of the net, resulting in him vanishing beneath an avalanche of bodies as both team-mates and coaching staff celebrated the amazing turnaround.

A minute later the final whistle blew as players and supporters alike celebrated a famous and well-deserved victory which pushed the Rams back into those coveted play-off positions.

Two games to go and the tension continues to the very last day of the season.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Fearon, Smalley, Roberts (Pugh 45mins), Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Hulme, Pilkington (Burton 8mins), Howson, Gaskell, Dean (Spencer 77mins).  Subs not used: Robinson, Krou