Making five changes to his starting line-up, Rams’ manager Lee Donafee was without stalwart captain, Jamie Rother, after he had moved to another club in midweek. Meanwhile, the captain’s armband was given to Will Hall who, usually playing in central defence, started today in midfield.
The match began brightly for the Rams with the home team gaining territorial advantage and creating chances on goal. After only 3 minutes, Ryan Jennings set Tom Croughan up for a gilt-edged opportunity that the striker took too long to size up, allowing a defender to block his shot. Then James Murphy broke down the left before steering a cross into the path of Leon Johnson. With the goal at his mercy, the winger somehow dragged the ball wide of the far post.
On the half-hour mark, a shot that looked goal-bound from Croughan caught a deflection off a defender to keep the match scoreless. Very much on the back foot, all Liverpool could manage at this stage was the odd foray out of defence, usually resulting in long-range shots well off target. As the teams went in at half-time, the Rams had looked much stronger but not managed to make it count on the score-sheet.
City of Liverpool came back in the second half much more determined. After having had a fairly quiet first half, Harry Turner was now called upon to be at his best to keep out attempts on the home goal. Against the run of play though, the Rams broke away and a move down the right wing led to the ball being crossed for James Murphy to slot home from short distance at the far post to open up a 1-0 lead after 62 minutes.
With the usual flurry of substitutions taking place during the fourth quarter of the game, the Rams’ goal did not look in any particular danger as the game wore on. It had been far from a classic encounter but the important thing was to protect their slender lead intact until the final whistle. When the match went into added time, it seemed as if the home team was on the verge of picking up three valuable points for their efforts.
However, Liverpool hadn’t read the script. Desperately throwing their last remaining energy into the game, James Steele broke down the right before unleashing a shot inside the far post of goal, leaving keeper Turner helpless. At this point, the home team and supporters inevitably felt dismayed that an equaliser had been conceded at such a late stage.
Even worse was to follow. Unthinkably, in the fourth minute of added time, Liverpool scored again. Full back Adam Hughes broke through the defence on the left and finished off his run with a shot that left Turner no chance of saving. With the home team left staring at one another in disbelief as to just what had happened, the Liverpool players and their supporters celebrated wildly.
There was barely time for the match to re-start before the ref brought the match to an end.
The mood in the two camps was like chalk and cheese. The away team jigged jubilantly on the touch-line close to their supporters while the home team trooped off the pitch, heads down and gutted, not quite knowing what had hit them.
There are bound to be internal post mortems in days to follow – ‘How on earth did we let this match slip?’ – but the hard reality is that in seven days’ time the Rams travel to table-topping Macclesfield where they will need to show much more resilience than they did today if they are to achieve anything out of the game.
RAMSBOTTOM: Turner, Radcliffe, McKenna, Lugsden, Barlow, Fitzgerald, Johnson (Ogunby 63), Hall © (Collinge 90), Croughan, Jennings (Cooper 71), Murphy. Subs not used: Hasler-Cregg, Halfacre.