League leaders take five-goal thriller

Table topping South Shields were the visitors to the HWRS on Saturday afternoon and were made to fight all the way to the end of an entertaining contest against a battling Ramsbottom United side.

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2 SOUTH SHIELDS 3
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Saturday 2 December 2017
Evo-Stik North
Attendance: 353

The Rams started the game with an excellent home record, suffering only two league defeats this season beginning the match in determined fashion as the visitors, backed by a vociferous travelling support from the North East, looked to consolidate their lead at the summit of the table.

It was the visitors who took the lead shortly before the quarter hour mark with their first attempt on target when a free kick was swing into the home box and Finnigan's flicked header fell kindly to Storey who side footed home past Danny Taberner.

As the half progressed more chances began to be created as Phil dean tested Connell from the edge of the penalty area for the Rams before another set piece for South Shields was headed over by Morse when well placed.

South Shields almost doubled their lead just after the half hour point when a good run from the impressive Holmes found Armstrong whose shot struck the post much to the relief of the home supporters.

Ramsbottom responded when an excellent pass from November Player of the Month Eddie Moran sent Dean scampering away down the left side before taking the ball past the onrushing keeper, sadly the cross was cut out but gave the home side some encouragement as they looked to restore parity.

Sadly bad luck was to strike on 37 minutes when Ramsbottom unfortunately lost their regular custodian when Danny Taberner succumbed to injury and with no sub keeper on the bench it was midfielder Ben Richardson who yet again showed his versatility by taking over in goal.

As the half was almost at an end, the Rams created a decent chance when Greg Daniels played a sublime pass through to Moran whose ball across the six yard line evaded the home sides' attackers and as the referee blew his whistle for half time it was South Shields that held a single goal lead.

The league leaders showed their efficiency in front of goal shortly after the restart when they increased their lead after good work from Stephenson on the right picked out Holmes at the back post before the wide man chested the ball down and sent a shot goalwards which found the target despite the best efforts of the retreating Jacques Kpohomouh.

The Rams reacted positively and with the probing play of Alex Meaney allied to the accomplished work of skipper Dean Stott, the home side looked to find a way back into the contest.

Ramsbottom made their second change just before the hour when Sam Heathcote replaced the hard working Moran and the substitution had an almost immediate impact as a Dean cross found the head of the recently arrived forward , whose downward header beat Connell and the visitors lead was halved.

The goal gave the Rams some attacking momentum as they pushed for an equaliser although the visitors always looked a threat going forward themselves as the encounter was becoming an excellent watch on a heavy surface.

Indeed the home side had a chance to get back onto level terms when a Jerome Wright cross evaded his onrushing colleagues.  Almost immediately and as soon often happens, the opposition made the Rams pay when a through ball from Briggs found Finnigan who confidently lifted the ball over the onrushing stand-in keeper Richardson and the away fans sensed their team were en route to victory.

Ramsbottom again responded and found a way back into the contest when an excellent pass from Dean on 78 minutes sent Heathcote through one on one with Connell before finishing with a low drive to reduce the visitors advantage to a single goal for a second time whilst registering his tenth goal of the campaign.

The Rams pushed forward looking for a leveller in the remaining 15 minutes of a hugely entertaining contest but ultimately without reward as it was South Shields that saw the game out by the odd goal in five.

With South Shields looking favourites to gain promotion it was nevertheless a resilient and promising team performance from the Rams as they pushed their high spending opponents all the way.  It would perhaps be remiss not to mention Ben Richardson's individual effort in pulling on the goalkeepers gloves in unfortunate circumstances and performing admirably.

Ramsbottom manager Mark Fell had the following to say after the match.  "Gutted for the lads.  I felt we deserved a point at least, fine margins and at the moment we are finding outselves just on the wrong side of them.  South Shields are the best side in the league and we matched them.  Our progress won't be judged on our results against them, but against the other sides in the division - we've a big month and we have to go to Droylsden on Tuesday and replicate our work rate from today."

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Taberner (Richardson 39mins), L.Brownhill, K.Brownhill, Stott, Thompson (Roscoe 86mins), Kpohomouh, Dean, Meaney, Moran (Heathcote 57mins), Daniels, Wright.  Subs not used: Spencer, Williams

COMING UP .....
Tuesday 5th December - Evo-Stik North - Droylsden v RAMS (7.45pm)
Saturday 9th December - Evo-Stik North - Ossett Town v RAMS (3pm)

FRANK CROOK's PICTURES FROM THE GAME

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