MATCH: Barnoldswick Town v Ramsbottom United
VENUE: Silentnight Stadium, Greenberfield Lane, Barnoldswick, BB18 5LJ
COMPETITION: Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
DATE: Saturday 21st August 2021
KICK-OFF: 3.00pm
DISTANCE FROM RAMMY: 26 miles, 38 minutes

You can pay on the gate – adults £6, concessions £3. Gates, tea room and bar are open from 1.30pm.

Unlike last year’s FA Cup, there will be a replay at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium on Tuesday evening (7.45pm) if the match ends in a draw after 90 minutes. There will be no extra time and penalties on Saturday.

After two opening winless league games against City of Liverpool and Marine, attention turns to the ‘Road to Wembley’ as Lee Donafee’s side travel to in-form Barnoldswick Town in the Preliminary Round of the 150th anniversary Emirates FA Cup.

It has been a difficult start to the league campaign for the Rams having not hit the target in the 180 minutes of league action but a run in the World’s most famous Cup competition might just be the tonic that they need.

However, standing in their way the North West Counties League Premier Division table toppers, who booked their place in the Preliminary Round with a 6-1 mauling of Runcorn Town just two weeks ago.

A midweek 5-2 victory over Longridge Town means they have scored 18 goals in their five competitive fixtures to date but have conceded in all of them as well – seven goals in total but at least one in each game.

It will be a considerable test for the Rams, who were well beaten by Marine on Tuesday night with a very disappointing first half showing but an improvement in the second which gave the 3-0 scoreline flattered neither side.

Saturday’s FA Cup will give the squad a chance to regroup and turn in a performance that could have the supporters believing, once again, that they are a force to be reckoned with and the first two games were just an early blip.

Maybe it is not surprising given the upheaval the club endured just three weeks out from the start of the season but a goal would certainly not go a miss and could just boost the confidence of the squad.

The Rams and Barlick have met once previously in the FA Cup – and it happened exactly 10 years ago yesterday (if you are reading this on Saturday) – 20th August 2011 on the same ground where 177 spectators watched Jon Robinson score twice in the first half to secure a 2-0 win.

As always, you can read all about the history between the Rams and Barnoldswick in our comprehensive “Have We Met” article, which is available here.

But Barnoldswick are a side that is etched in the annuls of Ramsbottom United history following the monumental tussle for the NWCFL title race in 2011/12.

Five matches between the sides previously with the Rams 4-1 to the good and a goal tally of 9 to 4. However, our only defeat came at the Silentnight Stadium in November 2010.

Manager Lee Donafee is desperate for a break and after the defeat on Marine, which saw three players limp off, he is looking at Saturday’s game as something of a reset.

“We can’t get any luck at the moment,” he said. “It will be touch and go whether lads like Jamie Rother and Jamie Rainford play in the game – they want to but it would be a risk for both of them, as they both have groin niggles.

“It is a long season and player welfare is more important than any result so we will have to have a look at them before the game and see how they are. Will Hall is another who went off during the Marine game but he saw the physio last night and should be ok.”

One player who will be missing for the Rams is James Murphy, who is cup tied having played for Litherland REMYCA in their 3-1 defeat at Prestwich Heys in the extra preliminary round.

However, new signings Ronaldo Brown, a winger who has been signed from Stretford Paddock where he played with assistant manager Martin Parker, has been signed on in time from the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur Football League outfit along with midfielder Jacob (Jay) Phillips.

Stretford Paddock are managed by a man with 43 appearances for the club and a member of the famous play-off winning Rammy side of 2013/14, Steve Howson. “They might be in the squad tomorrow, they have impressed during training so will see where we are with them.”

He only has eyes on this game going forward. “I am not even looking at this as a cup game, I am looking at this game as a game that Ramsbottom United have to win. We have to win tomorrow and we are going into this match with that mindset.

“We are going to pick the best squad available and go hard at them. They are in good form and top of the table in the Counties but we have to go there and play.”

A bit of good news is that Khalil Osi-Efa is back in contention for a starting place tomorrow, having recovered from the collar bone injury that has kept him out of the side so far.

With the Rams heading into FA Cup action, we talk to a player who helped Bury reach the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2007/08, beating Exeter City and Norwich City in rounds 2 and 3 before bowing out to Southampton at St. Mary’s in the fourth round – Richie Baker.

He is looking forward to Saturday’s game as it is a chance to bounce back from the disappointment of Tuesday night’s defeat.

“Saturday’s game is a massive game for us after Tuesday,” he said. “It kind of let us know where we are at the start of the season and that is a bit short. But if Eddie’s chance goes in, it could have been a different game.

“But coming off the back of a bad loss, the trip to Barnoldswick is a big game for us and it would be regardless of whether it is a cup or a league game.

“They are going well at the top of their league and will be full of confidence but if we turn up with the right attitude and the right mentality, then we can get the result. We just need to get used to playing with each other – the first time we did that was in the City of Liverpool game because of Covid and holidays.

“The early part of the season hasn’t been easy and losing players like Sefton, Thommo, Kyle and Nico really late on has had an effect but there is nothing to worry about just yet, we have got plenty in the dressing room and we win a couple of games and that moves us right up the table.

“I would be worried if we weren’t creating chances but we are and all we need is to get a win, get a goal or two and get the confidence going.”

As someone who has enjoyed a fruitful FA Cup run, he knows the effect it has. “For the players, supporters, the town of Ramsbottom, its a huge thing. Marine showed everyone that it is possible and they made a few hundred grand because of it. A cup run would be lovely for everyone involved and I think only TK and myself have played in the first round.

“You do need the luck of the draw to get there but if Marine can do it, we can too and can you imagine Ramsbottom United being on Match of the Day … it’s Roy of the Rovers kind of stuff!”