After the previous two seasons had been declared null and void and curtailed whilst the Rams were chasing a promotion place, enthusiasm was high that the team could continue in the same vein and that at last the season would be completed.
Sadly only the latter hope applied.
Just days before the big kick-off, the Rams manager decided to take up an offer he felt he couldn’t refuse, and jumped ship to join fellow-League side Workington.
With barely any notice, and with a subsequently depleted squad, assistant manager Lee Donafee took on the responsibility, hardly an ideal way to begin a new season.
He had very little time to work with the squad before we headed over to Wirral for our opening day game at City of Liverpool which proved to be a bit of a damp squid and a forgettable 0-0 draw.
Three days later, title favourites Marine came to town, and no-one was really surprised when they returned to Crosby with all three points on the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Never mind, the following Saturday we had, on paper, an ideal opportunity to begin a run in the FA Cup, as we travelled the short distance to NWCFL side Barnoldswick Town. It was a thrilling nine goal affair, but we were woefully inadequate as the home team sent us packing, and dreams of Wembley (I know!) vanished into thin air.
Then, after some squad shuffling by the management team, came our best run of the season.
Four victories on the trot with 15 goals scored had us all assuming our annual promotion chase was back on.
Uh-oh! How quickly fortunes can change.
A baffling loss at struggling Prescot Cables heralded a mini-slump whereby we gained just one point from the next five games, as we slid down the table at an alarming rate. Added to that was an immediate loss of interest in the FA Trophy away at bottom-of their-league Pickering Town. Two FA competition games, and two defeats.
A brief respite which saw us win three of the next four but any hopes that we were back on track were shattered on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon in Warrington. We had in recent weeks suffered humiliating 0-5 and 0-4 defeats at Bootle and Runcorn respectively but they paled into insignificance as we returned along the M62 on the back of a disastrous 0-8 scoreline that was to enter the record books as our worst defeat ever.
The run from December through to mid-February was nothing short of disastrous.
A scrappy 1-0 win at home to City of Liverpool and a point away at Newcastle Town was the total sum of a meagre return from eight matches, and we were seriously looking over our shoulders at the relegation places as they seemed to be dragging us in at a worrying pace.
Promotion-chasing Clitheroe came to town looking to give us more grief, but amazingly the tide began to turn as we saw them off on the back of a much-needed confidence-boosting 3-0 win.
A trip to Glossop had the supporters expecting more, but a gutless display had the Hillmen joyfully dispatching us 0-3, before another mini-run of win – loss – win at least saw us picking up points to created a small gap between the Rams and another couple of struggling teams.
Having performed as badly at Colne in a 0-1 defeat as we had at Glossop a few weeks earlier, we then had the onerous task of hosting the league’s top two teams within a space of four days.
Nothing there, was the expectation, and whilst that proved to be the case, it hardly told the whole story.
Our previous manager’s return with his Workington team had been much-anticipated, and for ninety minutes we more than held our own with a gritty and determined performance. Then one minute into added-on time saw the visitors poke home a rare chance to snatch all three points, a moment later told to me that had the referee sighing on our behalf!
Mind that referee had sympathy for us, which could hardly be said about the man-in-black four days later.
Free-scoring (and don’t we know it!) Rylands were on the receiving end of another fine Rams performance which has supporters questioning why such performances had not been consistently on view throughout the season. As the minutes ticked down, the referee on that day made an almighty goof, and awarded Rylands what proved to be a decisive penalty for an accidently collision that in my clear view should have resulted in either a red card and free-kick to us, or more sensibly a dropped ball when both players had recovered from their knocks. Not so, and as a result I was enraged enough to confront a match official for only the third time in my eight years as secretary.
So two undeserved 0-1 defeats put the pressure back on us.
However a 0-0 draw at in-form Kidsgrove followed by a 2-0 win at home to Kendal Town had the Rams contingent breathing an air of relief as safety was (almost) guaranteed.
A slightly disappointing 2-2 at already relegated Market Drayton just about kept the points total ticking over, as did the Easter Monday 1-1 at home to Trafford, but the final game of the season at Clitheroe just about summed up the Rams campaign.
Going behind early, by half-time the visitors were ahead, and went into the last quarter still in the lead. Then they conceded an equaliser, and with an air of resignation in the very last minute of the very last game, Clitheroe snatched a winner to leave players and supporters shaking their collective heads in disbelief, but happy in the knowledge that a disappointing campaign had come to an end with the team still safely in the NPL for next season.
One interesting fact is that with the exception of the 2014-15 campaign when Ramsbottom’s average home attendance was artificially boosted on the back of a 2,104 crowd for the visit of FC United of Manchester (season average therefore 350, but in reality 270), despite the disappointing results, the average home gate this season was an otherwise club record of 345.
One tends to wonder what it would have been had a promotion chase been on.
Hopefully next season will tell us!