by | Dec 21, 2023

Manchester Optical

Can the Rams achieve something that they haven’t done for over 27 months? It’s Christmas at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium and we all hope for a cracker of a game and a top ten place in the NWCFL as the centrepiece of the festive table.

Manchester Optical

MATCH: Ramsbottom United vs Squires Gate
VENUE: Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, Ramsbottom, BL0 0BS
COMPETITION: North West Counties League Premier Division
DATE: Saturday 23rd December 2023
KICK-OFF: 3:00pm
ADMISSION: Adults – £9, Concessions – £5, U12 – £1 (with paying adult)

Merry Christmas to one and all, Feliz Navidad for our Spanish followers (have we got any Spanish followers?) and Happy Holidays (hello to Chris and Heather over in the USA!!).

It’s our final match before the very short festive break and as Saturday’s game is our 23rd match of the NWCFL campaign, it officially marks half way through the league season!

Half way through? Surely we must be further into the season than that! No, it really is only the half way.

And the Rams are on a bit of a roll. We secured a second league win in a row – albeit separated by nearly a month – with a back-to-back commanding 3-0 wins, dismissing Irlam comfortably on Tuesday night with Matt Dudley’s double and Kuda Chingwaro adding a late third.

So, can the Rams win three league games in a row for the first time since August/September 2021 when we beat Kendal Town, Market Drayton Town, Mossley and Colne, scoring 15 goals and conceding just three in that time? Or how about three clean sheets for the first time since the world went mad in January/February 2020?

Standing in the way of that statistical possibility is some old friends from Blackpool in the shape of Squires Gate, heading to the Riverside for the first time since our NWCFL promotion winning season of 2011/12.

We lost the last time we played them, a New Year 1-0 reverse on, what the match report described as “atrocious conditions, a howling gale which contributed to a bitterly cold afternoon and was joined by diagonal rain later” afternoon Fylde coast in January 2012 – the infamous Lee Gaskell game for those who remember!!!!

However, the side from the Brian Addison Stadium are enduring quite a difficult season, sitting perilously in 23rd place, mercifully seven points ahead of Skelmersdale United at the foot but still in danger having played 28 of their league games to date, more than any other side.

It has to be said though that there are sprigs of hope with just one defeat in their last four games and an impressive 2-2 draw with promotion-chasing Wythenshawe Town at home last time out on Saturday – all four goals coming in the last 15 minutes and the equaliser grabbed in injury time.

Tuesday night’s win has moved the Rams to 11th in the table and while 12 points is still the gap between us and the play-off places, there was definitely encouragement in the good win at Irlam, the side showing plenty of resiliance following the FA Vase exit. Let’s hope that continues with a nice homely Christmas present of three points on Saturday.

Because watching Rammy on Saturday is definitely going to be better than enduring Bury Market for last minute provisions, isn’t it!!!

Squires Gate were regular NWCFL opponents for four seasons from 2008-2012 and the Rams hold a 5-2 head-to-head advantage with a single draw. That draw came at the Riverside in February 2010 when two first half goals from Joel Pilkington and Oliver McGee were cancelled out by second half strikes from Christopher Bennett and Louis Mayers.

Otherwise, the Rams dominated proceedings at the Riverside securing three wins, the last of which came in November 2011 when Andy Dawson and Lee Gaskell both grabbed a brace in a comfortable 4-0 win. But, as mentioned the last time we met them was that January 2012, Gaskell ‘forgetting the game was on’ clash that is still talked about … and now laughed about! Not at the time though!

Manager Steve Wilkes cut a very happy figure on Tuesday night, delighted that his charges bounced back from the disappointment of the Hallam defeat but knows that Squires Gate will not be any kind of push over, despite their perilous position in the table.

“After a really good performance and result on Tuesday night, it’s important we back it up against a Squires Gate side that have just had some great results themselves, winning away at the Isle of Man and drawing at home to Wythenshawe Town.

“The games come thick and fast at this time of the year so we need to make sure we utilise our squad over the Xmas period.”