Ramsbottom United climb to 11th in the table and just five points shy of the play-off places with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Brighouse Town at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 BRIGHOUSE TOWN 0
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 11 February 2017
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North
In the eyes of this observer the Rams produced their best and most complete performance of the season to subdue and overcome a spirited Brighouse side which prior to kick-off had stood seven points and several places above them in the table. This was a no nonsense stripped down Nordic Noir display which saw them dominate and control the game from start to finish denying the visitors even the slightest sniff of a chance on goal.
Manager Mark Fell is enjoying something of a golden run in the recruitment stakes. Following on from the capture of Reagan Ogle and Nathan Webb last week, both of who again put in effective performances on Saturday, he has now secured Darrhyl Mason who was the man of the match on his debut. Quick, energetic and mobile, Mason linked well with Andrew Bell and was a constant threat on the Brighouse goal. His contribution together with a rock solid effort from the back four and calmly assured control of the centre of the park by Dean Stott and young Joe Rathbone was the rock on which the win was built. So effective was the midfield pairing forming the bridge between defence and attack and bringing the wide men into play Brighouse were forced to rely on long hopeful balls easily dealt with by the Rams defence.
This is not to suggest that the win was other than very hard earned. Brighouse were determined throughout the 90 minutes but could not muster the artistry to find their way to goal. In fact the two shots, one from a penalty, which gave the Rams the win were the only efforts on goal managed by either team and with possession evenly shared the game was in the balance right to the end.
In the first half both teams moved the ball quickly and pleasingly - the nearest either coming to scoring being a vicious 25 yard shot from Dean Stott which crashed just the wrong side of the post after he had been set up by a neat cut back by Mason.
It was Mason who broke the deadlock just minutes into the second half. A low cross from Ollie Crankshaw caused confusion in the Brighouse defence. The ball fell to Mason at the far post and with more than a hint of manual assistance to control the ball he fired into the roof of the net from six yards. The referee, clearly unsighted, was sufficiently conscious that something might be amiss to give his linesman a long look seeking assistance. None came and much to the visitors' chagrin the goal stood. Fortuitous perhaps but no less than the Rams deserved on the overall run of play.
Brighouse responded forcefully and there was a feeling that if they could have got back into the game anything might then happen. But Luke Thompson and Paul Linwood resisted with fortitude and skill leaving Martin Fearon's goal untroubled.
The killing moments came with a couple of minutes left. When Mason forced his way to the bye-line only to see his cross go behind the on-rushing Max Hazeldine the chance to put the game to bed seemed to have passed. Brighouse cleared but only as far as Rathbone who picked out Ryan Salmon on the edge of the box. With a deftness that belies his size the muscled centre forward headed the ball into the path of Hazeldine who was tripped in the moment of shooting. Salmon calmly rolled in the penalty and the Rams were home and hosed.
The win puts the Rams up to 11th now and just five points from the playoffs with a couple of games in hand over most of those above them. It is not unreasonable for the manager and players now to talk of a promotion push without criticism of false optimism. The thought of promotion to the challenging NPL might cause trepidation in some quarters but with the talk of restructuring to come in in 18/19 getting up this season might be easier than next.
Ramsbottom United: Martin Fearon, Reagan Ogle, Matthew Atherton, Dean Stott (capt), Luke Thompson, Paul Linwood, Oliver Crankshaw, Joe Rathbone, Darrhyl Mason, Andrew Bell, Nathan Webb. Subs: Mark McKay, Ryan Salmon (for Bell 62mins), Max Hazeldine (for Crankshaw 64mins), Grant Spencer (for Stott 76mins), Aaron Hollindrake.
Brighouse Town: Tom Taylor, Kurt Harris, Greg Pearson, Adam Field (capt), Sam Hewitt, James Pollard, Leon Osbourne, Ben Atkinson, Ben Wharton, Michael Fish, Thomas Dugdale. Subs: Tom Haigh (for Dugdale 36mins), Luke Parkin (for Osbourne 55mins), Adam Baker (for Pollard 67mins), Alex Low, Lee Ashforth.
Referee: Ben Atkinson (Liverpool).
PICTURES from the MATCH (courtesy of Frank Crook)
VIEW FRANK's PICTURES HERE
ACTION from the MATCH
CHECK OUT THE HIGHLIGHTS HERE