Rams on the brink of play-off place

Watching Ramsbottom United at the moment, is not for those with a nervous disposition.

Having given away two late goals at Farsley to surrender all three points, then scoring two late goals against Warrington to secure the same, the Rams left it very late to grab another vital three points in the local derby at Salford City.

In the penultimate game of another fascinating season, a victory was all important in the chase for a play-off spot.

After a disappointing first half, whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time, had the desired effect, as the visitors took the game to the home side in the second 45 minutes, but it took them until three minutes from the end to grab the all-important winning goal.

Playing against the wind in the first half, the Rams began brightly enough, with Jordan Hulme scampering through in the 5th minute, only to see his goal chalked off for offside.

Gradually, however, the home side began to assert themselves, and the Rams were finding it difficult to put their usual passing game together.

A testing free-kick from the left saw the Ammies’ Warren Gaskin miss the target by inches with his header, before the visitors should have claimed the lead on 14 minutes.  A short back-pass was picked up by Phil Dean, but as stand-in keeper Chris Collins-Reed blocked the winger’s effort, Lee Gaskell, following up, saw his attempt hacked off the line.

Stuart Cook headed another free-kick over for the home side before they took the lead in a freakish manner on 18 minutes. 

Playing the ball across the back line, it fell to Rams full-back Owen Roberts. He attempted to smash the ball upfield, but only succeeded in striking the back of Chris Williams, who looked on in disbelief as it flew back over the head of Rams’ keeper Martin Fearon, and in under the bar.

Hulme was denied another goal by the off-side flag, but Salford were looking dangerous.

Fearon had to dive to his right to palm away a blistering drive from Williams, and was then relieved to see an angled shot from Tom Fieldhouse fly past the far post.

Jamie Rother fired over from a half-clearance as the home side looked to double the lead. 

Hulme should have levelled the scores on 42 minutes when he beat the offside trap, rounded the keeper, but couldn’t direct his effort in.

Seconds later, however, the scores were level. The referee adjudged that Lee Gaskell had been upended in the box, and the striker dusted himself down before hammering home the penalty.

Having been fortunate to return to the dressing rooms on level terms, the second half was a different story.

With the wind at their backs, the Rams took the game to the Ammies, and constantly prodded the home defence, but, frustratingly, failed to pierce the back-line.

Steve Howson headed a good chance wide from close range, before the keeper gratefully tipped a Domionic Smalley cross away for a corner.

Owen Roberts drove in a free-kick that took a slight deflection, but the keeper was equal to it, then Scott Burton tried his luck, but he was way off target.

Salford were reduced to occasional breakaways, one of which saw Matthew Purcell fire well wide from the edge of the box, but in the main it was one-way traffic.

Burton was inches away from 15 yards, before substitute Jon Robinson, returning from a long-term injury, was unlucky when his flick was headed over by a defender.

Robinson did have the ball in the net, but again, the linesman’s flag denied him, and with the Rammy fans become more on edge as the minutes ticked by, what was to prove to be the winning goal finally arrived on 87 minutes.

A trade-mark long throw from Lee Pugh had the Salford keeper’s attempt at a punch merely helping the ball goalwards, and Gaskell rose highest to nod it home from a couple of feet out.

Salford tried to regain a foothold on the game, but the nearest they came was a shot that was off target from Stuart Rudd, and the Rams played out the final few minutes for a vital three points.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Fearon, Smalley (Robinson 65mins), Roberts (Pugh 77mins), Stopforth, Warrender, Priestley, Hulme, Burton, Howson, Gaskell, Dean (Spencer 65mins). Subs not used : Toth, Krou