Result: Ramsbottom United 0-2 AFC Telford United (FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round)
Venue: Harry Williams Riverside Stadium (Saturday 26th November 2016, 3pm)
The cold weather had arrived in force. Well, around where I live it had anyway! Luckily for me and even more so for Paul who had been in the throes of travelling over from Liverpool, the cold hadn’t appeared to affect our intended destination of Ramsbottom much, if at all. Good news then and after confirming once more with the very interactive and helpful Rammy twitter account, I set off for Manchester before further trips into the hills.
After eventually meeting Paul outside of Piccadilly Station, we missed our intended tram by a matter of seconds, due to the poor systems known as the Metrolink ticket machines. Not to be deterred (due to the frequency of the trams, so a positive there for you Met), we jumped on the next one and were soon arriving into Bury. Now comes the “exciting” part. As is fairly usual for people heading to Rammy, the only real way to get there from Bury is on the East Lancashire Railway and their fleet of vintage trains. It may be a bit more money, but it beats the bus!
So, having passed by the mounting police presence in the town ahead of Millwall’s arrival and headed over to Bury Bolton Street for our step back in time, we arrived in a…festive themed station house. Having been informed that you now buy tickets on the train rather than at the office, we headed down to the platform and the small bar located there: The Trackside. It was nice enough inside, with the expected railway décor. What wasn’t as nice was the steam train outside deafening all and sundry within a 10-mile radius while letting off steam. Take ear-plugs if you are of sensitive hearing and don’t do what someone did and look for the toilet in the kitchen…
After a pint (£2.75) and a half of an ‘orange wheat beer’ in here whilst trying to sort out if our service was to be the fabled steamer or not, we were relieved when the time came to jump on that, indeed, it was. Not only that, it was also a “Santa Special”. Sadly, no Santa was spotted down our end, so Paul and I consoled ourselves with a beer we were allowed to take on board. Good stuff. £5.40 for the short 15 minute hop is ok if you consider you’re paying to keep these things going too and it’s not too often you get the chance to travel to a game on a vintage train. Still beats Northern too!
So, after a few photos of our transport upon arrival in Ramsbottom, it was time to seek out the important stuff. The Irwell Works Brewery seemed a good place to start (I’d been before and Rammy’s twitter had recommended it) so it was off past the markets and to the brewery. After heading upstairs to the bar, Paul plumped for the IPA offering, though that wasn’t quite to my liking and so I went for a cider. It was pretty decent too. But, with the time already passing 2pm, we decided to head over to the Ramsbottom Tap which meant it was off up the steep incline to the town’s high street.
The Tap was another decent establishment, with a quick pint of Shindigger being my choice. But with kick-off only 15 minutes away, a quick walk back through the town was undertaken, until we were approaching the cricket club turnstile and eventually the Riverside Stadium’s gates.
After paying £8 for entry, we picked up our reserved programmes (£2) from Katie inside (thanks!) and headed for pitchside. The Riverside is a smart little ground, consisting of four stands. Both goals are home to covered terracing, with the larger of the two situated at the cricket ground end. The opposite touch-line is home to the two seating stands, the larger main stand located towards the railway end and the smaller on half-way. The near side is open, hard standing and is home to all facilities and hospitality boxes. As for the club itself…
Ramsbottom United Football Club was formed in 1966 and initially competed in the local Bury Amateur League. After a season, the club moved into the Bolton Combination where they were to spend the next eighteen years before a move into the Manchester League for Season ’87-’88, competing in Division 1.
1991 saw the Rams end up as Division 1 Champions and earn promotion to the Premier Division. After four further seasons competing at this level, the club applied for a place in the North West Counties League and were accepted for a place in the league’s Division 2. Their first season saw immediate silverware arrive, the Rams lifting the Second Division Trophy and the next season saw them lift the Division 2 title.
1999 saw the club enter the FA Cup for the first time and Rammy fared fairly well in reaching the 3rd Qualifying Round where they fell to Conference side Southport. After starting the millennium in encouraging fashion, finishing third on two consecutive occasions, the club fell away into mid-table. The mid to latter part of the “noughties” saw the Rams become inconsistent in the league, though they did lift three consecutive Bolton Hospitals Cups (’06, ’07, ’08).
Following a poor season in ’08-’09, a change in management was undertaken, with Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley taking the reigns as joint managers. They immediately took the club up the league, finishing their first season in charge fourth before progressing to runners-up the following year. 2012, however, saw the Rams take the Premier Division title and, therefore, promotion to the Northern Premier League for the first time, breaking many NWCFL records as they went.
After narrowly missing out on the play-offs in their first season at NPL First Division level, Ramsbottom managed to secure a spot in the play-offs the following campaign. After defeating Darlington in the semis, Rammy then defeated Bamber Bridge in the final to secure the second promotion spot to the NPL Premier Division. Upon this, Johnson & Morley left the club to join the ambitious Salford City, taking a number of the squad along with them. Despite this, the club stabilized and managed to maintain a spot in the Prem. But the following year saw Rammy eventually suffer the drop for the first time in their 50-year history, as they returned to the NPL Division 1 North for this campaign.
The game got underway and, well, not much happened. Outside of the goals, there really wasn’t too much goalmouth action to be seen. Both sides were fairly unconvincing in front of goal for whatever reason during this game and never truly troubled either of the opposition goalkeepers. The home side had a few half chances but all were spurned as the sides headed in goal-less at the break and, to be honest, it looked as though it would remain that way. Not even the noise from the Stafford Rangers fans, who’d diverted to the Riverside upon their game with Chorley being called off, could liven up the tie on the pitch but at least there was the odd steam train passing behind the goal to keep us non-regulars somewhat entertained.
Half-Time consisted of getting, as expected, a tasty pie for a couple of quid and absolutely no “o’clock” moments for myself. None. Anyway, as the second half got underway, I was making my way round the ground when I got talking to Rammy sub Sam Freakes, who was more inclined to take the win on the day than taking Telford to a replay. As soon as he uttered this, he was given the chance to make it happen as he replaced the injured Grant Spencer.
But, it was to be the higher-level visitors who would make the breakthrough in a fittingly scrappy manner. They had forced a corner just after the hour mark and from the resulting ball in, Rammy couldn’t force the ball clear and it fell to Conor McCarthy at the back-post to force the ball over the line. If there was going to be a goal in this game, then that was how it was going to arrive, you felt.
Unfotunately, though, the goal did nothing in the way of opening up the game and it continued on its turgid way towards 90 minutes. But, as the clock entered the final 10 minutes of the tie, the Bucks’ Josh Wilson picked up the ball 35-yards out and unleashed an arrow of a drive that flew with pin-point accuracy into the top-right hand corner. Being sat in the stand and right behind the effort, it was quickly apparent there would be no chance for Rammy’s stopper Charlie Albinson. What a way to light up what had been a dour afternoon. 2-0, game over and time to exit the nippy Rammy night and take refuge in a hostelry in the town.
After finding out that the Beer House was just a shop, disappointingly, we made our way over the road to the Oaks for a quick post-match pint of a German beer that I can’t remember the name of, but there’s a few offered here, before heading to the bus stop for our carriage back to Bury. Once arrived, we decided to find somewhere to watch Chelsea-Spurs. After originally settling on Rayner’s bar, we soon bored and headed to the neighbouring Knowsley for the second half. Again, though, we weren’t too fussed by the game at this point and decided to head for the interchange over the road and the tram back to town.
After the quick hop back into Manchester, Paul bid a rapid goodbye and headed for a train out of here, completely neglecting the fact he didn’t have his programme, or the “snowy bible” as it had been christened by this point. For me, a quick change in Piccadilly Gardens and onwards to Stretford was the penultimate journey before grabbing the bus home to end the day. A really decent day out on the whole, with a hardly used transport being the highlight. No not the tram! Always good visiting Rammy and, hopefully, it won’t be too long until another is on the cards. For now, it’s onward to 200…
Value For Money: 6