Mark Fell's Ramsbottom United made a fire and brimstone start on a cool Bank Holiday afternoon with a couple of defenders cautioned for rugged challenges. Another Ram was perhaps fortunate not to be dismissed for a last man foul but the referee brushed off protests with a well practiced sweep of his arms. The black n white stripes weren't detered by the assertive tactics of the visitors and played some tidy stuff and created numerous chances. Unfortunately Sam Ashton's goal didn't look in a modicum of danger and on 27 minutes Colls were sucker-punched. A cheaply conceded free-kick was punished by a crisply hit volley by an unmarked Nathan Brown from beyond the far-post. Moments later Rammy had doubled their advantage. Danny Lafferty was adjudged to have impeded an attacker when a corner was floated in. A soft penalty but Jerome Wright wasn't complaining as he nonchalantly dinked his spot-kick over Jack Cookson. Michael Clegg's team went in at the interval shell shocked.
Colls grabbed a lifeline within minutes of the restart. A corner was headed against the post and Ben Hardcastle gobbled up the rebound for his fifth goal in four games. The home faithful were galvanised and roared on their heroes but were muted again on the hour mark. Another costly free-kick was given up and Jack Higgs' functional delivery from out wide left somehow bounced into the top right corner of the net.
A deflated Colls outfit continued to press more in hope than anything else. Long before the peal of the final whistle it looked obvious that there wasn't going to be a grandstand finish. Credit has to go to the Rammy rearguard who snuffed out any danger with aplomb and played down the clock cannily.
At the final whistle Mr Fell led his players to their pocket of spectators at the far left hand side of the ground to bask in their applause. No complaints whatsoever. A fine three points for Ramsbottom United.
A punishing result for the Collieries. No doubt Clegg and Co will have the lads back up for Saturday's Evostik-Stik Division 1 West visit of Skelmersdale United. Atherton Collieries: Jack Cookson, Dave Sherlock, Gareth Peet, Danny Lambert (Josh Peet 70'), Danny Lafferty, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey, Adam Farrell (James Sigsworth 79'), Ben Conway & Connor Gaul (Jordan Cover 61') Attendance: 288
Match Report: Emil Anderson
Photograph: David Featherstone