This was more like it with Rammy at their rampant best on the day! With two changes to the team that had picked up a valuable away point at Leek 48 hours earlier, the Rams came out all guns blazing in this Bank Holiday Monday fixture against top-of-the-table visitors Mossley.
Inside 4 minutes, Hall had a menacing downward header from a set piece saved by the keeper. Pressure on the Mossley goal was maintained with a shot from Grimshaw that veered narrowly wide of the near post. After 15 minutes, with the ball bobbling up in front of him, Creech connected with a well-struck volley only to see it clear the bar by an inch or two, much to the keeper’s relief.
At this stage, it was all one-way traffic but with the danger that frustration might set in from chances going a-begging. Misfortune occurred when, after a late tackle on Collinge that earned the offender a booking, the full-back was unable to stay on the field much longer and Kain Dean came on in his place.
Very soon after, it was Dean himself who, venturing down the left-wing, lofted a speculative-looking ball into the Mossley penalty-area. The keeper completely misjudged its flight. Backpedalling far too late, it was not enough to prevent the ball flying into the net at his far post. A 1-nil lead after 29 minutes was no less than Rammy merited for their adventurous play so far.
Even better was to come. Following the award of a free-kick out on the left on 40 minutes, Radcliffe chipped a ball into the area which Rouse met with the most delicate of touches to nudge the ball home and give the Rams a commanding 2-0 lead at half-time.
The atmosphere must have been highly charged in the Mossley changing-room during the break after such a lack-lustre performance to date on their part. In truth, they had not been allowed to settle. With the need to do something though, two substitutions were made in an attempt to claw themselves back into the match. Certainly, Mossley came back on to the field looking as though galvanised into action.
One of the two substitutions brought on veteran Andy Keogh whose all-round savvy soon began to have telling effect. In the 64th minute, he made his experience count when unmarked from a right-wing corner, he angled his header into the net to reduce the arrears to 2-1. With the pressure now back on the Rams and the match seeming to swing back in the visitors’ favour, it was a real test of character for manager Lee Donafee’s men to stay positive and keep plugging away.
With the game going end-to-end, the decisive moment came in the 84th minute when Rammy sub Hasler-Cregg stamped his mark on the match. Latching on to a quickly-taken free-kick, he jinked his way clear of scrambling defenders before calmly slotting a shot wide of the keeper to make it 3-1 and restore the two-goal margin.
With Mossley sensing the game was lost at this point, Rammy players and fans were jubilant. At the final blowing of the ref’s whistle, there was an understandable air of celebration around the ground following a highly impressive 3-1 win on the day. As such, it proved sufficient to lift the side clear now of the relegation zone.
With the season still only in its early stages, there is plenty of time for further consolidation in the club’s standing in the league. This was a great team performance on the day. A purposeful tempo was maintained over the whole ninety minutes which the team now needs to make sure they replicate in upcoming fixtures. The Rams’ next match is away to 1874 Northwich this coming Saturday 3 September.
RAMSBOTTOM: Monks, Radcliffe, Collinge (Dean 21), Barlow, Hall, Holt, Grimshaw, Rother (c) (Hasler-Cregg 68), Creech (Ajibola 78), Rouse, Donaldson. Subs not used: Jennings, Fitzgerald.
Photo: Jake Horrocks