(Originally published in the Rams v Barnoldswick Town programme)

There’s no doubt that the new season is well and truly underway and the games are coming thick and fast as we find ourselves back here at The Riverside for the second time in six days.

Last Wednesday saw us chalking up our first three points of the season with a last minute winner giving us a 2-1 victory over FC Isle of Man, a goal that sparked plenty of joyous scenes on The Railway End terraces, and I’ve got to say I’m quite warming to life back in the NWCL. It also gives us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with some old friends such as tonight’s visitors, Barnoldswick Town.

Our most recent game with them saw us making the short journey to their rather splendid Greenberfield Lane ground for an FA Cup Preliminary Round clash back in 2021. Despite The Rams losing by a single goal in a 5-4 thriller, and they say the magic of the cup is dead, it was still a pleasurable day for those of us who made our way to the game from Rammy and, hopefully, we can get our revenge here tonight.

However, with four points, from their opening two league games, and an FA Cup win over Handsworth last Saturday, it promises to be a stern test for a Ramsbottom Utd team who are now starting to gel into quite a cohesive unit. So, it’s the usual warm welcome to everyone who has travelled over from Barnoldswick tonight and let’s hope we can manage another 300 plus crowd again tonight.

With the promise of more to come from this new on field, and off field, set up I think most supporters are happy enough with our start to the season. Saying that, the same could not be said following our opening league fixture, a couple of Saturdays ago, when we travelled to newly promoted Wythenshawe and came away on the end of a 4-0 spanking.

Ouch indeed.

The day had started off well with plenty of sunshine and plenty of optimism as we made a 1.30 departure in the Rammy Rocket from The Urn. This gave us enough time for a quick pint in Northern Whisper, mines a Yammerhouse please, before it was time to go and board The Rocket. With Andy Worsick driving we were also joined by Macca, Spenner, Little Katie, Emma and Ross the Dog for the short journey to North Manchester.

Fair play to our hosts for what was a decent little ground and it was obvious they were trying to move the club forward from their recent Manchester League background.

On arrival we entered the car park where we had to pay not only to park, but also our entrance fee to the ground, which resulted in us all having to put cash together in order to get us in. Once inside the ground had a rather quaint little main stand running down one side of the pitch and a clubhouse, with an all-important bar behind the goal. No prizes for guessing where we headed first then.

The bar was pretty spacious, with the fifth Ashes test on a big screen, and a decent offering on beers available to quench the thirst of us weary travellers. I opted for a pint of Neck Oil IPA to kick off with, a beer I was aware of without actually ever having one, and I’m pleased to report back that it was a tasty little number. With the cricket being on TV we found Codge Senior glued to the TV so we went and joined him at his table for a pre-match chinwag which started with the question of why he was on his own and not with the rest of his family. As it turned out Claire was back in Rammy watching young Harry (Codge Junior the Second) who was turning out for the cricket team down at Acre Bottom. Move over The Neville Brothers, there’s a new sporting dynasty in town.

Despite the Met Office predictions of rainfall the weather Gods were actually kind to us and as kick off time came, and went, the sun was shining on us and heating my poor, bald napper up to uncomfortable proportions. Not expecting this I had left my hat at home which was a shame as Mrs Darkside had carried out renovations on some of the holes with a rather fetching Dead Kennedys patch for the new season. The only solution to this, and ignoring both scientific and medical expertise, was to have a few more beers in order to keep heat stroke at bay for the next ninety minutes.

This is where my only gripe of the day came about as on returning to the bar shortly after kick off (well, Macca did to be precise) there was a long line of supporters waiting to get served and waiting in line would have meant missing a lengthy chunk of the first half. However, with an impressive crowd of 472 you can’t place too much blame on Wythenshawe and I’m sure this will be rectified as the season progresses. To be fair to our hosts they did have a can bar and, although not as appetizing as the Neck Oil they had on draught, a few tinnies of Strongbow went down well and helped numb the pain of us letting in three goals in the final few minutes.

All in all, and despite the heavy defeat, it was still an enjoyable day out and fair play to the Wythenshawe staff and supporters who made us feel welcome throughout the day. A decent little set up and good luck to them for the season.

One of the plus points of our new life in the NWCL is the large number of grounds we will visit that are less than an hours drive from home meaning that Andy doesn’t have to stop on Grane Road for someone to have a pee break and also we are back in town to join the teatime drinkers and before 6.00 we were all back in Northern Whisper for a perfect end to an, almost, perfect afternoon.

Here’s to the next nine months and Come On Yoooouuu Raaams!