With the top half of the table back in reach, and with the feel good factor having returned to Rammy (following the win at home to Widnes in front of the season’s biggest crowd) – the second of our back-to-back home games followed, against historical bogey side Kidsgrove Athletic.
The match would be met with eager anticipation, and arrived with a settled starting 11 to boot – with no changes made from that crucial win against Widnes. It always seems like a boost to escape having to make any enforced changes, which have been all too common this season much to the manager’s misfortune.
What also seems to be a common denominator this season, is the matches where we come out fighting straight from the kick off are the ones where we seem to pick up the best results. This was in evidence against Widnes, and it was exactly how we started again here which would surely bode well.
Early doors, an effort from Jamie Rother narrowly evaded both John Murphy and Hugo Rodgriguez close to goal – a touch from either forward would surely have sent it over the line, but they were both rather unlucky not to make a connection.
In the 7th minute, giant striker Rodriguez did make a telling connection, utilising his great aerial ability to flick on long free kick from goalkeeper Tom Stewart. Domaine Rouse latched on, lifting the ball over the advancing keeper Ryan Brown to give us the perfect start. 1 nil Rams.
Right winger Jake Thompson looked back to his best today as he twisted and turned inside and outside of the Kidsgrove box, wrongfooting defenders for fun. His obvious speed is an impressive weapon in our armoury which we have to exploit at every opportunity we possibly can – he made several trademark marauding runs from deep today which deserved much more than they ultimately got. He did draw a booking from one defender Alex Morris, who resorted to bundling him over on the edge of the box, but nothing came from the free kick that followed.
After thundering an effort over the bar, Rouse would add to his tally for the afternoon with a delightful second. John Murphy, showing great commitment, charged down the Kidsgrove keeper Brown as he attempted to clear and the ball rebounded to the centre of the field where Rouse was free to place it cooly along the ground and into the empty net from distance, sending the crowd into raptures.
Though Rammy controlled much of the play, this was a battle, make no mistake about it. Commmitted tackles came flying in on a very frequent basis, some real crunchers from the likes of Jamie Rother and Rouse. The majority were fair, although at one point Rother did pick up a yellow card for his troubles. A later high foot from the same player was a potential problem for the Rams, but the referee saw sense and kept his cards in his pocket, much to Jamie’s relief I am sure.
Despite Rammy’s dominance, Kidsgrove number 10 and captain Anthony Malbon surprised us all, finding space in the box and finishing perfectly to make it 2-1, and there was little Tom Stewart could do in goal to keep it out.
The visitors started to play a bit and did have a stronger finish to the half but they couldn’t get the ball past Stewart a second time, and Rammy always looked a threat on the counter. There was a brief moment of discomfort when Stewart was bundled over by a challenging forward, but luckily the whistle blew for a foul and hearts could return from mouths. Other than that, a header from Malbon that whistled just wide was the best Kidsgrove could muster, as we went in 2-1 at the break.
Early in the second half both teams had penalty appeals waved away – it was hard to tell if there was much in either incident but if there was doubt then at least they both came to the same equal outcome.
Attacks continued to build from one box to another. A headed knock down on the left saw an acrobatic Rodriguez volley land straight down the throat of the keeper, and at the other end a fierce header brought a wonderful tip over the crossbar from Tom Stewart.
Centre back Steve Hoy screamed like a centurion as he headed a goal bound effort off the line, like a true Ramsbottom warrior. But in the 73rd minute he was cruelly adjudged to have manhandled Kidsgrove substitute Danny Cocks in the penalty area, and referee Seth Sheehan-Galia pointed to the spot. John Johnston duly dispatched the equaliser, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Conditions worsened and battle-hardened legs would tire as the game wore on, with plenty of rainfall throughout. By the end, a few of the players looked like they’d crawled straight out of a mud bath – there is something mystically healing about that Rammy soil I am sure!
A few substitutions and half chances followed but it was in the 81st minute that the contest was settled, courtesy of flying winger Thompson. A mix up between one of the Kidsgrove defenders and keeper Ryan Brown left the rampant Thompson singing shirtless in the rain, as he pounced on the ponderous back line and slotted in to the near empty goal with an outstretched centre back on the line failing to keep it away. Ramsbottom went wild!
This was a deserved win and a classic team performance, in which everyone played their part. Owen “Codge” Collinge had a magnificent game at left back, and is getting better and better with the more and more game time he gets. George Wyatt looked a lot more assured and comfortable at the back today as well, a much improved performance and one to really build on. Tom Kennedy also played a big part in orchestrating the midfield, and was a calming influence, steadying play with ease when required.
We have a team full of committed players at Rammy, we can always be sure of that.