REPORT: Rams 1 Leek Town 1

Evo-Stik West Division

Saturday 5th January 2019

RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1 LEEK TOWN 1

Attendance-220

Report by Jon Haslam

Ramsbottom United took to the field at the HWRS on Saturday afternoon to take on an in form Leek Town outfit looking to respond after their New Year's Day defeat at the hands of Atherton Collieries.

The home side showed three alterations to their previous match with Ryan Ellison, Tom Kennedy and Ruben Jerome making the starting eleven at the expense of Kyle Jacobs,Joel Bembo-Leto and Richard Brodie respectively as the hosts completed a tough run of three home matches which has seen the Rams take on opponents above them in the league standings.

It would be the high flying visitors from Staffordshire that would create the first effort on goal, when, in the opening minutes Aaron Bott found himself in space but his curling shot sailed wide of the target as the away side looked to extend their impressive run of six league matches unbeaten.

The Rams then worked their way into the contest from an attacking perspective and responded with Ruben Jerome bringing a routine save from Roberts in the Leek goal as the home side sought to make Leek Towns first ever league visit to the Riverside an uncomfortable experience.

With just over a quarter of an hour played of a fairly even contest the Rams made the breakthrough when a cross from Ryan Ellison found the bald pate of Eddie Moran and the midfielders well directed header met up perfectly with the forward run of Jamie Rother who controlled the ball well before confidently finishing a well worked move with a low right footed drive which beat Roberts in the visitors goal to give the Rams all action schemer his third goal of the season.

As the encounter continued the referees whistle was as prominent a participant as any of the players on view as free flowing football was limited and as the league table prior to kick off showed this meeting had all the makings of a tight contest between two teams pushing towards the higher reaches of the standings.

The home side looked to take confidence from the early lead with the tricky Nic Evangelinos and the metronomic Eddie Moran causing the visitors defence some problems with their positive runs as the hosts looked to extend their lead as they took control of the middle third of the first period.

With just over a third of the match played and the Rams narrowly in front the visitors fashioned two efforts in quick succession from Leek forward Robert Stevenson, his first effort being a neat turn and shot which fractionally missed the target before a 20 yard pile driver looked to have beaten Sam Ashton in the home goal but clipped the top of the crossbar before bouncing to safety much to the relief of all associated with the Rams.

As the half time interval was only minutes away a potentially significant incident occurred as the home side were reduced to ten men when referee Stuart Morland issued a red card to Ramsbottom United forward Ruben Jerome for a petulant off the ball incident with Leeks Jack Sanders, to add to the frustrations the ball wasn't in play at the time but the official decreed that the forwards reaction was deserving of a sending off much to the dissatisfaction of the home crowd.

Despite being a man down the hosts almost doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time when a bustling run from the industrious Jamie Rainford took him past two visiting defenders before getting a sight of goal but the goal bound attempt was blocked by Roberts in the visitors goal.

Both sides returned after the interval unchanged and perhaps unsurprisingly Leek took the early initiative as they looked to take advantage of their extra man and continue their recent run of form which shows the side from Harrison Park at the top of the seemingly increasingly referred to "form table".

With almost ten minutes played of the second period played the day trippers were quite literally handed a way back into the match when young Rams midfielder Anthony Donaldson was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area and a spot kick was awarded which Aaron Bott converted by sending Sam Ashton the wrong way and the scores were level.

Within minutes of the equaliser being scored Chris Willcock made a double change with Kyle Jacobs and Kieran Lugsden replacing the unfortunate Donaldson and goal scorer Rother as the hosts looked for fresh legs in the midfield area as with over 30 minutes remaining the home side would need to remain steadfast in their defensive duties to keep their high scoring opponents at bay.

As time ticked along Ramsbottom were finding it difficult to sustain any attacks of note as Leek enjoyed the majority of the territorial advantage as they looked to utilise the width of the pitch to disrupt the home sides defensive organisation but with the Rams rearguard in resolute form the irrepressible Luke Thompson and impressive Kelvin Lugsden were doing a fine job of protecting Sam Ashton between the sticks.

With clear goal scoring chances at a premium and three quarters of the contest played a shot from Leek forward Stevenson from the edge of the penalty area was blocked en-route towards goal and brought claims of another handball but referee Morland thankfully rebuffed the requests for a second spot kick for the visitors.

As the minutes ticked towards the final quarter of an hour both sides utilised their bench with Richard Brodie replacing Ryan Ellison for the Rams as they bravely went with two forwards on the pitch looking to give the Leek defence some difficulties in the time that remained.

The tactical change seemed to have the desired effect as Leek became ever more desperate to nick the points and continued to push players forward whilst the hosts began to retain possession of the ball and in winning a couple of free kicks gave the home support hope that the Rams could perhaps pinch an unlikely victory with the expert delivery of set pieces from Tom Kennedy a weapon which has been utilised to great effect in recent weeks.

The remainder of the match was fairly well balanced with neither side creating the chance that would ultimately secure the win, Jamie Rainford had a promising effort blocked for the Rams before Leek had the final effort of the game when substitute Hall fired a half volley over the bar with almost the final kick of the match and both sides shared the spoils in a hard fought contest.

Ramsbottom United showed plenty of team spirit and togetherness to battle for over 50 minutes with ten men to gain a well earned point against an in form and high flying Leek Town side that comfortably beat the Rams 4-0 in mid September which shows how far the side has progressed in recent months losing only two matches in the twenty played since Chris Willcocks arrival in early October.

The Rams now sit in seventh position in the league and just outside of the play off places but the last three matches have shown that the side are more than capable of competing against the teams towards the top of the league and a play off place is more than attainable by the seasons end but thoughts now turn to Saturdays historic FA Trophy Second Round tie against Weymouth at The Riverside Stadium.

Ramsbottom United:- Ashton, Kennedy, Ellison (Brodie 69mins), Moran ,Thompson, Kelvin Lugsden, Rainford, Rother (Jacobs 57mins), Jerome, Donaldson (Kieran Lugsden 57 mins), Evangelinos.

Unused Subs- Osi-Efa, Bembo-Leto