In a five-goal thriller that didn’t let up in intensity from start to finish, the Rams played superbly to clinch a 3-2 victory at the death and gain an invaluable three points in their on-going campaign to stave off relegation.
Making a bright start, the home team went 1-nil up after nine minutes. Breaking through from midfield, Tony Donaldson was body-checked on the edge of the Trafford penalty-area. From the resultant free kick, Ben Halfacre drilled a low shot into the far corner of the net past a bemused-looking defensive wall.
Much against the run of play, the away team equalised after 17 minutes when striker Tom Bentham found space at the far post to meet a cross from the right with a fierce left-foot shot that gave keeper Harry Turner no chance.
Undaunted, Rammy came battling back, deservedly going ahead again on 40 minutes following an in-swinging corner from the right from Danny McKenna. Up for the corner, Kelvin Lugsden cottoned on to the flight of the ball with the deftest of flicks to steer the Rams 2-1 ahead at half-time.
The second half started with a strong run down the wing from Henry Ogunby producing a shot which the Trafford keeper did well to palm away for a corner. At the other end, Turner had to be quick off his line to smother a through pass which could have otherwise fallen into the path of an attacker.
Despite sharp downpours of rain affecting the match throughout, both sides did well to commit themselves to keeping going in an entertaining game which could have gone either way. In midfield, skipper Will Hall set a spirited example, tirelessly covering the ground box-to-box and exhorting his team to still greater effort.
Donaldson, despite being fouled endlessly in the match, never let it get him down and kept switching the ball about to his team’s advantage.
Coming as something of a sucker punch in the 70th minute, a left-foot cross from Trafford sub Robert Worrall was neatly angled into the path of Tom Bentham, again hovering at the far post, who only needed to lend it the slightest of touches to peg the score back to 2-2.
Bearing in mind the pattern of recent matches, home fans were left scratching their heads as to what might go further wrong from this point on. Virtually the next minute, Bentham was provided with another sitter of a chance in front of goal which surely he couldn’t miss? This time round, the striker sliced his shot wide and the Rams heaved a sigh of relief.
With the game going end-to-end in the final few minutes, and both sides out for the winner, a shot from the Rams cannoned against the Trafford bar before being scrambled away to safety. Next, James Murphy, put through one-on-one on the keeper by a well-timed pass from Donaldson, had his shot blocked.
Then barely a minute later, Murphy found himself presented with another chance on goal. This time, controlling a cross coming in from the right, he swivelled on to his left foot before slotting the ball into the net with unerring accuracy to make it 3-2 in the 88th minute.
Goal celebrations were wild but surely after recent added-time setbacks, the question now was whether the Rams could hold on for the precious three points. Despite one or two anxious remaining moments, as the relentless rain turned to heavy sleet, referee Emily Carney blew the final whistle.
With Rammy players, management staff and fans alike joyfully celebrating the good tidings that this seasonal victory brings, the club will hope to further develop the winning habit into the New Year.
RAMSBOTTOM: Turner, Radcliffe (Osi-Efa 79), McKenna, Lugsden, Barlow, Fitzgerald, Ogunby (Hasler-Cregg 79), Hall ©, Halfacre (Creech 63), Donaldson, Murphy.