Ramsbottom v Radcliffe...football as it used to be
WITH Bolton Wanderers travelling away for a Roses clash with Leeds, Bury facing a North West derby against Tranmere and Manchesters City and United in Premier League action, a small corner of Lancashire was more concerned with a battle for local bragging rights.
Evo-Stik Division One North neighbours Ramsbottom United and Radcliffe Borough met for the first time competitively yesterday to kick off 2013 with a derby. And the game didn’t disappoint – the Rams edging a thrilling encounter 3-2 at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.
While the bigger clubs in the county have been rarely troubled by the wettest of winters, the first victory of the new year went to the groundstaff at Rammy whose hard work paid off when the big match was given the green light while many of the two sides’ fans were tucking into their post New Year’s Eve bacon butties.
The home fans, whose team sat 16 points better off than their more-seasoned rivals going into the game, got ready to part with the remains of their festive funds while Boro’s away followers arranged their meeting points to make the short seven-mile trip.
The chilly weather and inevitable rain may have put some off with a crowd of just under 300 slightly disappointing for such a momentous non-league occasion in the Red Rose region.
But those that did dust down their blue scarves from both sides and forked out £7 to turnstile-operator-come-club-owner Harry Williams, were treated to a thrilling holiday classic, albeit those from Boro went home disappointed.
Williams would certainly be happy to start 2013 in fine style after a year he labelled in the match programme as “one like no other” in the club’s history.
Pie and peas for just £1.70 warmed everyone up, as did the home-made brew served in proper mugs – this is a long way from the prawn sandwiches of Old Trafford.
You don’t get the traditional steam locomotive of the East Lancashire Railway rolling past there and sending plumes of smoke across the ground.
It was the home faithful who would be first to be given early new year cheer when their side took the lead six minutes in.
The crowd’s hands were hardly back in their pockets after the plethora of new year handshakes among fellow terrace dwellers when Jon Robinson headed them into a deserved lead.
Boro’s opening disappointed their fans, and caretaker boss Kevin Glendon, and it looked like the dark clouds were gathering in more ways than one when, shortly after the floodlight generator had been fired up, they went two down.
Substitute Philip Edghill had only been on for four minutes when he picked the ball up in midfield and advanced to arrow a lovely left-footed pile-driver past helpless Boro stopper James Coates into the top corner on 19 minutes.
A few of the visiting fans behind the goal at the other end probably contemplated a retreat to the tea room for another brew such was their side’s lacklustre opening.
For the home fans, though, it was better than many a hangover cure.
Within six minutes, however, Boro had a chance to get back into it when a sloppy back pass let in Ben Wharton, but, after rounding keeper Grant Shenton, he was bundled over by Rams skipper Andy Dawson – the brother of ex-Boro and England Under-21 defender Craig.
It led to an inevitable red card for the centre-back – one which superb referee Michael Denton had no choice in brandishing.
Denton marshalled a match in wet conditions with common sense so often lacking at the higher levels, letting a physical but fair derby flow – it appears the art of tackling is alive and well in non-league circles and the officials apply the rules appropriately.
Some things are the same at any level, however, and the anguish was plain for all 292 fans to see when Wharton got up to blaze his spot kick high over the bar.
Boro did get back in it against the 10 men before the break when Matt Crooks curled home a fine low effort on 39 minutes.
But the two-goal lead was restored on the stroke of half time by Dominic Smalley.
The rush for the pie, peas and teas out of the rain followed swiftly after as others tweeted the match’s key moments to those who will not be blessed with news via Sky or Final Score.
The second half saw more rain, and more endeavour from the visitors but they had to wait until added time to get another goal back through Simon Carden.
By that time the Boro flag draped behind that goal was as damp as the spirits of its owners.
The full-time whistle brought cheers from the Rams fans but also grace from their Boro compatriots. Someone has to win but on this New Year’s Day, non-league football and those who put so much work into keeping their clubs alive were again the real victors.