The Rams produced a very scrappy performance in both meanings of the word to come away with a well earned and thoroughly deserved point.
BRIGHOUSE TOWN 2 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2
Dual Seal Stadium
Saturday 11 March 2017
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North
To recover from the seven goal mauling by Farsley Celtic the previous Tuesday and then survive two forced reorganisations of their back line was creditable but this was a game they really needed to win and could easily have done if they had been able to produce anything like their best form which has seen them win six and draw three of the 12 games played so far in 2017.
However that form is proving elusive at present and there are signs of individual and collective weariness and some drop of morale not helped by inconsistent availability and injuries which means that it is now some time since there has been a settled team. Having to bring in more loan signings at this late stage in the season may well be unavoidable in the circumstances but is not the sign of a settled team capable of sustaining a push for play-off places.
In the opening minutes the Rams appeared still benumbed from the Farsley experience and it could have been to the surprise of no one that it took Brighouse only seven minutes to open the scoring. Perhaps young Luke Thompson took Michael Fish's assertion that there was no storm on the way a little too complacently when he allowed the weatherman's namesake to breeze past him and send a well directed cross on to head of Ben Wharton at the far post.
At that stage things were not promising. Playing anything that reflected controlled football was just about impossible on a hard and uneven pitch (does it only rain in Ramsbottom?) offering capricious bounce of the ball. To their credit the Rams did try and just 10 minutes later produced the one bit of joined up pass by either team in the whole match to draw level. Dean Stott and Max Hazeldine exchanged sharp passes to set debutante Kevin Monteiro clear in the box. The wild lunging tackle which sent him flying was frankly irresponsible and should have earned at least a yellow card - the young midfielder was lucky not be be badly injured. Lee Gaskell calmly dispatched the spot kick.
Matt Atherton was less lucky when a similar tackle, perhaps this time excused by the bounce, saw him have to depart injured after only 30 minutes or so. The versatile and ever willing Dean Stott slid into the left full back position and performed brilliantly producing a wry comment that he is equally bad with each foot! He is often the unsung hero of this Rams team and is fast becoming a leading contender for player of the season.
The rest of the half passed without much of interest other than the performance of young Monteiro who must have the longest inside leg measurement for a Rams midfielder since the aging Ian McCool last turned out. Gambling and capering around the length and breadth of the pitch he was the driving force behind most of the Rams most promising moments and it was only when he flagged later in the game that Brighouse were able to achieve any dominance.
By that stage the hosts were 2-1 down in somewhat controversial circumstances. A penetrating run by Darrhyl Mason was ended just on the edge of the box. From a narrow angle Grant Spencer's free kick rocketed off the angle of bar and post. Ollie Crankshaw hooked in the rebound and the ball was headed on to Lee Gaskell who had the semblance of being off-side. His finish into the far corner from just inside the six-yard box was emphatic.
Brighouse complained almost to a man to the referee and were left unconvinced that it had been a defender's head which had provided the last touch - with some justification since the video shows it had been Luke Thompson who had deflected the ball on. But the video also shows that a Brighouse defender had loitered on the six-yard line as his mates moved out and that Gaskell might just have been onside.
At that stage the Rams were beginning to look comfortable fueled by Mason's energetic and selfless running into space all too often ignored by the man on the ball. But things took a turn for the worse with Paul Linwood having to go off injured meaning young Crankshaw having to be asked to play right back.
Pressure mounted and with 10 minutes left a firm shot from inside the box hit Jesse Arizie on the arm. To more Brighouse consternation the referee waved away the penalty appeal. Unfortunately when the ball was returned in, the Rams froze in a vain attempt at working an offside giving Fish all the time he needed to thunder in a shot from the narrowest of angles to level the scores.
It is never over until the brass band plays. Five minutes of added time gave Brighouse the chance to apply late pressure but apart from a couple of free kicks from promising positions one of which whistled just wide they were unable to unpick some solute if at times slightly panicked Rams defending.
Ramsbottom United: Martin Fearon, Bradley Roscoe, Matthew Atherton, Dean Stott (capt), Luke Thompson, Paul Linwood, Oliver Crankshaw, Kevin Monteiro, Lee Gaskell, Max Hazeldine, Darrhyl Mason. Subs: Mark McKay, Jesse Arizie (for Linwood 62mins), Grant Spencer (for Atherton 20mins), Ryan Salmon (for Gaskell 74mins).
PICTURES FROM THE GAME (courtesy of Frank Crook):
VIEW FRANK's PICTURES HERE
VIDEO ACTION FROM THE GAME
WATCH ALL THE CLIPS HERE