Ramsbottom United were knocked out of the FA Cup in a seven-goal thriller at the City of Liverpool. Purples forward James Steele was the hat trick hero, his third and final goal proving to be the sucker punch with a header deep into injury time to seal the victory for the home side.
In a game not short on drama, both sides produced an exceptional encounter, yet despite a valiant effort, Lee Donafee’s side were left wondering what might have been. Rams goals came from Leon Creech and Domaine Rouse. Max Allen was on the scoresheet for City of Liverpool while left-back Kain Dean saw red for a challenge on Michael Simpson.
Just the one change was made to the side that held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the original tie at HWRS. Jamie Rother replaced Anthony Donaldson in the midfield.
Remarkably, the early exchanges proved to be a lacklustre affair, with neither team creating a clear opening. The huge talking point of the first half came from the Dean red card which no doubt changed the direction of the game on the 30-minute mark. Both left-back Dean and winger Simpson challenged for a 50/50 ball, with the full-back sent off for a two-footed challenge. Despite the nature of the incident, the decision seemed harsh in both real-time and on replay footage as both players made an equal attempt for the ball.
Shortly after the red, City of Liverpool went two goals up. Firstly, a header from Steele at the back post and the second directly from a Max Allen free kick. However, hope was restored for the Rams on the stroke of half-time through Leon Creech. A goal kick from keeper Charlie Monks found Billy Hasler Cregg who with pressure building from the Liverpool back line, slipped a wonderful pass through to Creech to round keeper Ryan Hamer.
Needing the half-time break to refresh and refuel after going a man down, the Rams came back fighting and were soon level at 2-2. Domaine Rouse scored his first of the evening with a free kick that caught the home side cold. Yet despite Donafee reshuffling the pack, the man advantage for Liverpool became apparent. Glen Rule saw a header cleared off the line while Monks turned a Jack Walls shot over the bar. Monks also blocked a shot from George Hassall soon after. Despite holding firm, the back line was dropping deeper and deeper.
In what had been a feisty encounter, spectators were treated to a dramatic end-to-end finale in the closing stages. Right back Walls proved to be the home side’s secret weapon, and in the 80th minute, the tide had turned back in Liverpool’s favour. Steele rose higher than anyone at the back post to put his side back in front. Yet the Rams thought they had taken the game to extra time. From right back, Oscar Radcliffe launched the attack, finding Will Hall who struck a first-time shot at keeper Hamer. After being put back into the danger zone by the keeper, Temi Ajibola was first to the ball tapping in at close range sending the travelling fans into raptures behind the goal.
Yet unfortunately for the visitors, Steele had other ideas. Again, with an appetising ball from the right, Walls found forward Steele with a perfect cross to send Purps into the next round with a goal straight from kick-off after the equaliser.
Although at just the preliminary stages, the FA Cup may not see drama like this tie all season.
Ramsbottom: Monks, Collinge, Dean, Fitzgerald, Hall, Holt (Radcliffe 76’), Grimshaw, (Donaldson 86’), Rother, Creech, Rouse, Hasler-Cregg (Ajibola 73’)
Unused subs: Jennings, Barlow
REPORT: Aaron Benson