My trip to Ramsbottom was almost as boring and tedious as the town’s most famous music act; Elbow. Unlike the bands recent album entitled “The Take Off and Landing of Everything”, this match never quite took off and left me rueing my match choice for the evening.
Now, the more traditional ground hopper will say that a match at Ramsbottom has to be attended by catching the East Lancashire Steam Railway. I agree, but as this match was an evening kick off this obscure and romantic option wasn’t available. Instead, Aaron’s car – which due to it’s age also runs on steam – had to get us to the Lancashire village.
We were travelling down the M60 when I suggested that we should carry on down the motorway to watch Rochdale Town v Atherton Collieries. The mighty Colls had been involved with a number of high scoring games and I was sure that it would be another interesting game down in Castleton. Aaron on the other hand insisted that neither side had anything to play for and that it would be a boring end of season kick about. Furthermore, he began to wax lyrical about how the match between Ramsbottom and Farsley would have huge implications at the top of the table, meaning that both sides would serve up a thriller. His words, not mine.
This was my second visit to Ramsbottom having attended their convincing 3-0 victory over league newcomers Darlington back in September. I was quite impressed by the place and wanted to take some more photographs when it was a bit lighter.
Once one of the main mill towns during the industrial revolution, Ramsbottom is a small, quiet place found to the north of it’s larger neighbour Bury. The River Irwell flows through the town and part of this course sees it curve around the football ground, leaving it susceptible to flooding, with the latest incident occurring in June 2012 when both the football and cricket ground were submerged.
United were founded in 1966 by current chairman Harry Williams. Whilst I admire the amount of time and effort he has put into the club and non-league football, there is no need to name a ground in honour of yourself. I’m sure Harry is lovely when you get to know him and I feel a bit mean criticising him, but when he stands at his window at the entrance, with a big pile of money in his hands he comes across as a bit of an arse. On my first visit, he informed me that they don’t do student admission, to which I responded with some rather derogatory comments about his club. No such worries this evening though, as I used a league pass meaning he got none of my money. This made up for being ripped off last time.
Before the Darlington match we had a couple of pints in the cricket club pavilion which I strongly recommend you visit before a match. The beautiful little cricket ground backs on to the football ground and the pavilion serves a variety of drinks, which on a sunny day, you can take outside and enjoy next to the cricket pitch.
Programmes were being sold outside the entrance to the ground by Jack Wolfenden; a man who has a stand named after him at the ground. I wasn’t going to pick one up, as I wasn’t really in the mood for football, I just wanted an evening out… and I didn’t want to give the club any money. I did change my mind however when he said that they were only £1 due to it being a reproduction of the programme earlier in the season when this fixture was postponed.
Once past Colonel Williams in his counting house (the turnstiles), a pathway leads you into the ground past the refreshments area. Ramsbottom win over many spectators with their offering of brews served in mugs. Joe had three mugs before kick off had even approached. It was left to two poor young girls to walk around the ground at regular intervals with an old Kwik-Save basket to retrieve the mugs and take them back to the kitchen.
Since our visit earlier in the season the ground had undergone some improvements with the introduction of a new covered section behind the goal at the Railway End. The weather was slightly warmer now too and the daffodils were out in full force to add to the charm of the place.
My favourite part of the ground is at the opposite end where a covered terrace has benches, which are a fantastic place to watch football from when the crowd is sparse. You can also sit in the Main Stand which has seats from Manchester City’s old Maine Road ground, whilst the floodlights were acquired from Boundary Park home to Oldham Athletic. The only unfortunate thing with the floodlights is that they require a generator which sits at the Railway End of the ground close to the toilets.
Now, when I urinate in public I find that I’m quite shy. I go into relaxation mode, closing my eyes forgetting where I am. I tend to do this by listening to the birds tweet or the leaves rustle… or preferably by relaxing with the sound of the urinals flushing if caught at the correct moment. The floodlight generator caused issues. Those of you who know of Northern Rail’s fleet of Pacer trains will be familiar with the loud revving sound that is produced when starting up the engine. Try having a wee whilst that sound is incessantly pounding your ears and you’ll soon find that you struggle too.
There was quite a sizeable crowd at Ramsbottom this evening. The Rams usually get more people watching them when Bury aren’t in action, and that was the case. A bit like at Colls, where we are lucky to get 50 spectators when Bolton are at home, but when the Wanderers aren’t in action around 120 come through the gates.
I was backing the home side for this match as their joint management team of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley had both played for Atherton Collieries.
Rather predictably, this match ended in a draw, meaning both sides dropped points in their quest to secure a play-off position. There weren’t many chances in the match and our enterainment came via Twitter following the Atherton Collieries match, which we somehow lost 8-6. That’s right, we lost 8-6, in front of a crowd of 22 at Rochdale. That means that each fan nearly had a goal each.
Farsley started the brighter and had their first chance after just four minutes when Simeon Bambrook headed a left-wing cross over the bar. That chance was a sign of things to come, and the side from Leeds took the lead six minutes later.
The ball looped up near the wing and came down with the help of a Farsley arm. The referee didn’t spot this – but it may have been harsh to penalise. Loose, the ball was hit first time by Robbie O’Brien who hit the ball into the far corner from 25 yards.
Their lead was nearly doubled, but Matty James’ cross proved too high for Aiden Savory who was at the back post waiting to pounce. Ramsbottom couldn’t create anything in the final third, but their physical style of play began to keep the visitors at bay as proceedings became more equal.
Danny Warrender came close to equalising but he headed over from close range. Lee Gaskell was inches away from heading his side back into the match after connecting with a cross from Joel Pilkington. A late first half chance fell to Phil Dean who snatched at his shot and it was subsequently saved by Farsley goalkeeper Tom Morgan.
On reflection, 1-0 to Farsley was a fair result. However, Ramsbottom improved further in the second half. In the early stages, Billy Priestley headed a Gary Stopforth free kick over the bar before Jordan Hulme went close.
Hulme was in action again halfway through the half when he beat Farsley goalkeeper Tom Morgan to the ball. He chipped the ball over the oncoming stopper, but his effort was cleared off the line.
On 74 minutes, Rammy got their reward. Grant Spencer worked his way along the edge of the box before playing a one-two with Stopforth. Spencer composed himself and fired the ball into the corner from the edge of the box.
Farsley almost snatched a late winner when Aiden Savory found space in the box. A smart shot was kept out by Martin Fearon who tipped his attempt wide of the far post. The final minute of the game saw Savory threatening again, but a deflection took the ball the wrong side of the post.
I would highly recommend a trip to Ramsbottom United when you get a chance. I’ll be going back again at some stage on a Saturday afternoon, catching the East Lancashire Steam Railway in the process. The Riverside Stadium is a nice, clean and scenic setting for football. Cups of tea are in abundance and the matches are usually entertaining. You’ll see a physical game unfold, with fans who are a decent bunch and are always up for a laugh.
I am still kicking myself to this day that I chose this fixture over Rochdale Town 8-6 Atherton Collieries. As one person said on twitter, Colls must be in the only club in the history of football to score 12 goals in two matches and still only claim three points.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 19 miles
- ADMISSION: Free with a league pass
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £1 (Was produced for a postponed match)