It is often said that football is a funny old game.

When it comes to meetings between Ramsbottom United and Newcastle Town, it is very often not a laughing matter in our camp as the record against the men of Staffordshire is…. well, it’s pretty poor!

However, we have only met twice in the last eleven and a half years after our visitors breezed through the North West Counties League in the 2009/10 season and our paths didn’t cross against until the back end of the 2018/19 season when we were in NPL 1 West.

And when you take into consideration that Town had scored 12 goals before we got off the mark in the head to head stakes, then the dye was cast very early.

0-3, 0-4, 0-5 were our first three results in the NWCFL in 1997/98 and 1998/99 before we sprung a surprise in winning 2-1 in April 1999 at the Lyme Valley Stadium with goals from Steve Orrell and Russell Brierley.

It was a surprise because we only won one of the next 11 after that, a 3-0 win at the Riverside in September 2000 when Francis Vaughan, Brierley and Chris Brookes were all on target on what was described in the match report as “a saturated surface”.

We lost 4-2 after extra time in the League Cup quarter-finals in January 2003 but we were never shy of scoring goals – scoring in nine of the 11 games in that run. It was just that, more often than not, Newcastle scored more than we did!

That spell ended when we took a 2-1 win in March 2004 – Iain Dyson and Lee Buggie scoring – and then backed it up with a 4-3 win in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final eleven days later.

Wow… back to back wins!!! It didn’t last though as Michael Saunders’ hit was all we took from the second leg and we were out 7-4 on aggregate.

Fast forward to 2009.

At the back end of the 2008/09 season, the Rams headed to Lyme Valley when a Chris Budrys first half hat-trick was more than enough to sink Paul Williams’ beleaguered side as Newcastle ran out 4-0 victors – a fifth straight league loss for the Rams which was followed by a 1-0 win over Abbey Hey but then a 3-6 loss to Bacup Borough on the last day of that season.

Two new, untested, rookie managers were appointed for the 2009/10 campaign and their first challenge was at Newcastle Town. Michael Douglas and Daniel Skelton made it 2-0 to the hosts, Jordan Johnson bagged a hat-trick either side of the break and the Rams were thrashed 5-0 to give the new bosses a chastening start.

Those two managers were, of course, Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley and that match with Newcastle Town was well chronicled of being a real eye opener for their opening in management. Things have improved for them since!

But Newcastle, unbeknown then but certainly known when they headed to the Riverside in March 2010 to take a 4-0 win (Skelton, Budrys, Johnson and Mellor) were on their way to a 24-point league winning parade, winning 37 of their 42 games that year and recording a goal difference of +100. The Rams finished fourth, 33 points behind!

The next time we meet was February 2019 when the Rams headed south – maybe with some trepidation as we had only won twice in 15 previous attempts at the Lyme Valley Stadium.

What followed beggared belief! Nic Evangelinos gave the Rams a 1-0 interval lead, he extended it with a penalty on 50 minutes, Jamie Rainford added a third on 56, Khalil Osi-Efa a fourth with ten minutes remaining and then Tony Donaldson and Ruben Jerome hit two more in the last five to give the Rams a 6-0 win. We had only scored 14 goals in the 15 previous games there – to score six in one go was never expected. Football truly is a funny old game!

So when Newcastle came to the HWRS a month later, the Rams licked their lips in hope of more. Nah, football doesn’t work like that! Chris Smith opened the scoring for the visitors, Kyle Jacobs levelled just before half time only for Jordan Cole to hit the winner on 73 minutes and revenge was exacted. Football is … yep, you know the rest!

As it stands, the head to head record is 33 matches played, Rammy have won 8 and lost 22 with three draws while the goal tallies are Rammy 43 Newcastle 82. Yikes!

But, as we always say, that’s the history and Saturday is the future and maybe time to turn around our record of five without a win against Newcastle at the Riverside going back to 2006.

It’s ok Rammy supporters, you can look again now…. it’s over!