MATCH: Ramsbottom United v Runcorn Linnets
VENUE: Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, Ramsbottom
COMPETITION: Pitching In Northern Premier League West Division
DATE: Saturday 22nd January 2022
You can pay on the gate – adults £9, concessions £5, students (age 17-18) £6, children under 12 £1 (with a paying adult). Pie and Peas available throughout the afternoon – and tea and coffee in a proper mug! Programmes are £2 each.
An improved performance but still a defeat was the general feeling following last Saturday’s game with Bootle. Encouraging signs from Lee Donafee’s young charges but no points to show for their endeavours.
And Saturday brings another stiff test of their resolve in the shape of the ever improving Runcorn Linnets, who sank the Rams with a three goal blitz in the closing five minutes of the game at the Apex Taxis Stadium back in October.
The Linnets are currently sat in the final play-off place, despite a somewhat surprise 2-0 away defeat to City of Liverpool last weekend – their first defeat in five – but their prior run saw them move clear of sixth placed Mossley and poised for a raid on the four ‘big guns’ ahead of them.
With just one win from our last six games, including two home reverses to kick off 2022, times are currently pretty hard for the Rams, having sloped down to 15th in the table and suddenly starting to look tentatively over their shoulders – both Widnes and Kidsgrove Athletic now only three points behind us.
Matters haven’t been helped by two high profile departures from the squad in the shape of the prolific Jake Thompson stepping up one division to join Bamber Bridge and Hugo Rodrigues stepping up one league position in joining 14th-placed Glossop North End.
Football’s like that – it happens – and they have been replaced by two promising players in the shape of former Accrington Stanley Academy player Ryan Graham and versatile midfielder/striker Colin May, who are ready to come into the squad for this game.
There is a desperate need for a change in fortunes. The manager himself admitted that the 3-2 loss last weekend hurt much more than other results as he couldn’t fault the effort of the team throughout. “We just need to get a couple of results and we will be ok,” he admitted.
“No team at semi-professional level could have worked as hard as we did against Bootle. I thought we were superb and we have worked hard in training this week to try and get more of that same momentum.”
The Rams need to get a win. Is a home game against a side challenging for promotion the time to turn things around? Anything can happen in terms of results – there is no hard and fast reason for any results. Recently, both Bootle and Mossley have beaten title chasers Marine 3-0 and City of Liverpool beat Linnets 2-0 last weekend. Coupon breakers all, you would think. Can the Rams break the coupon this weekend?
STAT OF THE PREVIEW:
Runcorn Linnets matches away from home average an attendance of 516 – the only team across the eight Step 4 leagues to average over 500 at their away games. The Rams are fourth in that particular table with average attendances away of 441 – thank you, our faithful travelling Rammy fans!!!!
LEAGUE FORM GUIDE (most recent game first):
Ramsbottom United: L L L W L L
Runcorn Linnets: L W W W W L
You can read all about the history between the Rams and Runcorn Linnets in our comprehensive “Have We Met” article – originally produced for the October fixture so just add the 4-0 reverse to the page!
Manager Lee Donafee is adamant that there is plenty still to play for this season. Whilst his team might be down in 15th place and with just one win from their last six, he is sure that a change of fortunes is just around the corner.
He has been boosted by the arrival of two new players, who will come into the squad for the game on Saturday while Khalil Osi-Efa returned to training
this week, which could be a huge plus going forward.
One player who the Rams won’t see again this season is Joel Earps, who has an ACL injury and has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
Owen Collinge, who felt a back twinge last weekend and took a place on the bench, continues to be assessed as to whether he will start or not but “although we are desperate to win, we have a duty of care to the players and will see how Owen is.”
Blackpool loanee Michael Fitzgerald is due to play his final game of his spell but Lee is keen for him to stay on for a while longer. “He is a very good player and we would like to keep him with us for a bit longer as we haven’t had the very best out of him yet.”
And while he was pleased with the effort his side put in last weekend against Bootle, Saturday’s game is another challenge where he learned a harsh lesson in the reverse fixture in October.
“I think that was my naivity,” he admits. “We switched off trying to push forward for an equaliser and left ourselves open at the back where Linnets kept their shape and cut us apart. I learned a lot that day so Saturday is a chance for us to put that right.
“It will be a very tough game against a side going really well but their result last weekend and our near miss shows that everyone can beat everyone in this league and I told the lads that during training, that anything can happen if they work hard enough for it.”
He always said that he didn’t believe in luck – but he knows that his sides has to change soon. Kick off is at 3pm … let’s get behind the lads as always and get that first win of the new year.