FA Cup Preliminary Round
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 5 AFC LIVERPOOL 0
Programme: £2 (a good one too)
Tea Hut Stuff: Tea in a mug 70p
Parking: On the lane far side of the Heritage Railway station
Weather: Mixture of clouds and sunny spells, dry and mild
The Riverside Stadium has to be one of the nicest non league grounds I've travelled to. If you've not been yet and find yourself in the area, get down there. It nestles besides the tree lined River Irwell and is tucked behind the scenic cricket ground, it also has the added attraction of being overlooked by the adjacent East Lancashire Heritage Railway. Locals will tell you that when the leaves fall in the winter you can always watch the passing steam trains and diesel locomotives (especially if its a poor match). The ground is just a short walk from the charismatic little centre where there is a small market, rows of quaint shops, good pubs and various eating establishments ranging from the sit down 'higher-end' standard to a really good fish and chip shop. Its got everything you could possibly want. If you can last out grub-wise until match time there is a great traditional tea hut at the ground, they do some good quality pies and you get a proper cup of tea in a mug, all at sensible low prices, you can also sit at one of the internal tea hut tables and look back at some of the club history and old team photo's on the wall.
I'm giving non league football programmes another try at the moment, I'd stopped buying them previously due to the lack of readable content. Todays matchday publication was 2 quid but I have to say its one of the best put together programmes I've seen for a very long time at this level. It had various interesting articles from the club and sported the added bonus of lots of good quality colour photographs. The people who put it together should be congratulated for bucking the common non league trend of minimal info, cut and paste gubbins from the respective league website and loads and loads of adverts. If you go, I recommend you get one.
Todays game was chosen as one of my FA Cup ties of the round. I only live around 20 miles from Ramsbottom and seeing the other contenders for my attention seemed to be a considerable distance away in comparison, it was common sense (and economical) to take advantage of the circumstances. Ramsbottom were one of the surprise packages in last seasons Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North and only just lost out on promotion, this season however they have struggled to get points in the bank and have lost their first four league games. They have a good squad of decent players but for some reason things are just not clicking into place at the moment.
Their opponents from the North West Counties League Premier Division, AFC Liverpool, are currently enjoying a very strong start to the season indeed. After a couple of seasons bedding into the Premier level they are now seeing some reward for a lot of hard effort and sterling foundation work. Could this be a shock on the cards? Could the Liverpool side from the lower league cause an upset? Looking at the stats there was definitely a case to consider. As we all know statistics mean nothing 'come-showtime' and today proved how foolhardy it is to rely on them totally. With no disrespect to a gallant effort from the visitors Ramsbottom United were well worth the victory. How they didn't score far more than five is a mystery. Time and time again they cut the Liverpool side open only for the goalkeeper and some wayward finishing denying them a much bigger tally.
It wasn't all one way traffic though, AFC Liverpool needed time to settle into the game (which by then they were losing) but they still produced a good few scoring chances which warranted at least a reference on the score sheet. Ramsbottom keeper Grant Shenton was proving to be a major obstacle for them. The first half was superior to the second in my opinion perhaps the 2-0 scoreline just about kept the visitors in with a remote chance of a comeback. Once Ramsbottom went three up early in the second period the game was all but over. The rest of the game fell a bit flat, dare I say it scrappy. The obvious factor in the game was the difference in league status, Ramsbottom look a good solid side even though they are rumoured to have started their respective league campaign in the wrong gear, I reckon they will soon be back on the winning path soon enough in the Evo Stik, the strikers who played today Lee Gaskell and Tom Brookes look top quality, they are superbly flanked out wide by Dom Smalley and Phil Dean. As for AFC Liverpool their 'usual suspects' John Lawless and Steve Jones put in another couple of admirable performances which will hopefully have pleased their loyal band of travelling supporters (flags and all). I'm sure AFC Liverpool will continue to warrant respect and caution from their NWCL opponents as their increasingly threatening reputation sees them at the higher end of the Premier Division league table.
As regards the next round of the FA Cup Ramsbottom, or 'Rammy' as the locals call them are rewarded with an away tie at Stocksbridge Park Steels from the Evo Stick NPL Premier Division. I wish them good luck. Should be a good open game at another nice little non league stadium.