Radcliffe 3-0 Ramsbottom United: Boro spear the Rams in semi-final derby drumming
By Daniel Pryer
Radcliffe ease through to the Evo-Stik West play-off final from an emphatic 3-0 win against local rivals Ramsbottom United at the Neuven Stadium.
It was a fixture that was simply unmissable for the locals, albeit the previous encounter eight days before was a goalless draw. But this purely meant more. Over 700 fans who stood and watched, proved that.
A first time cross from Lee Neville in the opening 10 minutes found Tom Brown at the back post, who fired it back to Tunde Owolabi but Rams goalkeeper Sam Ashton beat the 24-goal striker to the ball.
18 minutes in, and the visitors had their first sniff of goal. Luke Thompson rose above the Boro backline to throw himself at a cross, but his header was thrashed wide of Ollie Martin's post.
Then finally, Radcliffe opened the scoring on the 40th minute mark. A first-time cross by Prince Haywood floated perfectly onto the head of Scott Metcalfe at the back post, who directed it past Ashton into the top corner.
It was the perfect half for Jon Macken’s 90th game in-charge, however Nic Evangelinos had the chance to equalise in the first two minutes of the second period with a well-worked volley on the turn, but it never stopped rising.
Then, the crucial moment. Boro doubled their lead 18 minutes later through the league’s Player of the Season Owolabi, who went clean through and rounded Ashton to slot home. Bedlam commenced amongst the Radcliffe supporters.
The football, despite the occasion being one of potential nerves, was delightful - and the icing on the cake was finally layered on by Ben Wharton.
The striker, similar to Owolabi, broke clear of the away side's defence but this time lofted a one-on-one chance over the visiting number one to make it 3-0 on 77 minutes.
Boro now have their first opportunity to gain promotion on Saturday to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League since the 2002/03 season, and they can do so in their own back yard.
Hot occasion, ice cold performance
Players can easily become nervous or let the importance of the occasion get to the head, but it seemed business as usual for Radcliffe.
Everyone stood out, and stepped up when it mattered. The defence stood colossal, like it has for the majority of the season, and the attack was on fire - on one of the hottest occasions in the clubs recent history.
Passion, Balance and Composure
Everything you needed in a competitive side was present in Jon Macken's 11 tonight.
Metcalfe in the first-half epitomised the season that the Boro have had. Digging deep, finding a way through and unmatched winning mentality.
Owolabi showed his trademark balance and dribbling ability like he has all campaign, alongside his familiar finish around the goalkeeper.
The composure shown by Wharton to seal the victory was typical of him. A cheeky chip over the head of Ashton was delicate, despite a tough and dogged battle to hold off the opposing centre-backs.
Man of the Match - Prince Haywood
Anyone could have won the award tonight, but Haywood once again proved his importance in the nucleus of such an all-round team.
As well as breaking up the Ramsbottom attacks, he provided a brilliant assist to Metcalfe's opening goal, showing his ball-playing abilities just as much as his off-the-ball intelligence.
Radcliffe: Martin; Harrison, Neville, Haywood, Grogan, Lacy, Lindfield, Williams (C), Wharton (77'), Owolabi (65'), Metcalfe (40')
Rams: Ashton; Kennedy (C), Jacobs, Moran, Thompson, Lugsden, Ellison, Rother, Rainford, Carey, Evangelinos.