HWM – SKELMERSDALE UNITED?
The Rams and Skelmersdale United have the possibly rare destinction of meeting once again, having played each other in both NWCFL Division 2 but also the Northern Premier League Premier Division. That’s step 6 up to step 3 but, sadly for both clubs, back to step 5.
34 times the sides have faced each other since the first back in August 1996 with the Merseysiders holding a 19-10 win advantage with five draws and they are also way ahead in the goals stakes, 62 goals to 49.
And the Rams have not exactly enjoyed their trips west either, securing only three wins from 18 on the road – and only one in that corner of the country in their last 11 since winning 1-0 in December 2003 … nearly 20 years ago!
Let’s start with that win at Volair Park, the home of Prescot Cables, in NPL Division 1 West on 3 November 2018 when a brace from Ruben Jerome either side of half time was added to by Nic Evangelinos late on as we secured a fine 3-0 victory.
That was the first part of a season double over Skem as the return game at the HWRS resulted in a 6-0 Saturday afternoon thrashing – Evangelinos and Jamie Rainford with a pair each while Iyrwah Gooden and Jerome sent the fans home happy.
But it has rather been a tail of woe as those two wins are the only victories the Rams have secured against Skelmersdale in the last 14 games going back to April 2006 when the Rams won 2-0 in NWCFL Division 1 at the Riverside thanks to goals from Darren Rogers and an own goal eleven minutes from time.
In our relegation season last year, the teams unfairly (well from our point of view anyway) shared eight goals at the HWRS in October in a game that started in explosive fashion! A Ben Halfacre penalty on just three minutes was equalised a minute later by Elliot Morris but Jamie Rother, who had been booked moments before the Morris strike, put the Rams 2-1 up on 13 minutes.
Morris would equalise on the half hour for a 2-2 half-time scoreline before three goals in three minutes around the hour mark would sent excitement levels high. A second Halfacre penalty was equalised yet again within a minute, this time by Sam Turner while Max McCarthy would give the visitors the lead on 59.
A flurry of cards from the referee would see the Rams reduce to ten men on 71 minutes as Ryan Jennings was dismissed while James Murphy, keeper Ben Barnes and McCarthy would also enter the officials’ notebook. Unfortunately for the Rams, Emini Adegbenro would seal the win for the visitors five minutes from time, clinching a 5-3 win.
Not so much excitement in the reverse fixture at Burscough though as Stephen Milne’s 65th minute strike would settle matters in favour of the hosts – probably no surprise as we had won just one of our previous 10 games!
Of course, no article about games between Ramsbottom United and Skelmersdale United would be complete without the desperation and despair of 4th May 2013 at the West Lancashire College Stadium when we went from ecstasy to agony within eight heartbreaking minutes against the runaway league champions.
Knowing that a point would guarantee them a place in the play-offs, that point became crucial as news spread that both Trafford and Mossley, the other teams chasing the two remaining play-off places, were winning comfortably.
With just eight minutes of normal time remaining, the game that had “nil-nil” written all over it, suddenly sprang to life.
A free-kick from the right found Andy Dawson near the far post and he directed his header into the far top corner of the goal to spark joyous scenes by the Rams dug-outs.
Alas, just three minutes later, a long cross from the Skelmersdale right was nodded back into the six yard box, and Skem substitute Antony Hickey found space to nod the ball home from close range.
Suddenly, the home side began to look dangerous, with the visitors back-pedalling. Dominic Smalley threw his body in front of a free-kick to divert it wide for a corner, from which Hickey again reacted quickest but saw his header land on the top of the net.
With the Rammy bench imploring the referee to blow his whistle, the home side broke down the left, and as the ball was flicked back from the bye-line, it fell for Matthew Hughes some 15 yards out, and with the aid of a deflection, it cannoned into the net to turn the game on its head. The referee did blow his final whistle shortly afterwards but not before sending Mark Ayers off as he was faced with a three-on-one situation in defence and hauled down the only one he could!
As the players slumped to their knees at full time – like Grant Shenton in the picture being consoled by co-manager Bernard Morley – Skelmersdale would be lifting the NPL Division One North trophy.
Can we win on Merseyside? We will see… but hello again Skelmersdale for the 35th time!