Improvements but another loss

This was a game the Rams should never have lost so while there will be some considerable comfort to be taken in the evidence of continuing improvement there will also be concern at the failings which saw the points slip away.

BUXTON 2 RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 1
Tuesday 27th October 2015

It would be very easy to point to a lack of killer instinct in front of goal which saw any number of clear cut opportunities spurned.  However, the inability to sustain performance over the full 90 minutes combined with some head scratching selections at the outset on a night when the manager was unable to attend and substitutions in the last 20 minutes when chasing the game which, for all their attacking intent, lacked any sense of how the ball might be delivered to a flat forward four where equally culpable.

For 70 minutes the Rams played all the football.  Shelton Payne was outstanding up front holding the ball up and bringing midfielders into play, Jordan Bove's movement a constant irritant for the Buxton defence and Alex Meaney, once on the pitch - why did he not start? - and Matt Crothers an effective midfield shield.

The Rams were well worth their lead taken after 14 minutes when Buxton could not clear a corner.  A shot appeared to be going wide until directed into the net by the knee of Marcus Poscha.  From there the Rams were comfortable but as all to often found a way of inflicting self-harm. 

With the minutes ticking away to half time rather than whipping in a corner they opted for a short routine which simply coughed up easy possession.  From there the Rams never regained composure as Buxton swept forward and Crothers' scything tackle in the box on a Buxton forward lining up a shot resulted in an inevitable penalty which was just too precisely directed for Grant Shenton to keep out.

For 20 minutes into the second half the Rams continued to dominate, moving the ball quickly wide and running onto ball played by Payne and Bove.  One such saw Meaney's well directed shot lacking only a bit of power beaten away by the keeper and then Bove, clear through, hesitated slightly and saw his effort cleared. 

There is though a sense of lack of match fitness, perhaps inevitable, around players recently brought into the squad.  Shelton Payne faded and with him went control of the game.  There was a growing sense that all the Rams' superiority a second goal from Buxton was on its way as the Rams defenders started to drop off a little too far and allow attackers to collect and turn.  Even so when the goal came it was unfortunate - a snap shot from Barraclough seeming to be of no danger.  Grant Shenton though was either wrong footed or had lost spatial awareness and the ball slipped inside the post past an immobile keeper.

With substitutions the Rams lost cohesion until, in a last few minutes a sweet curling ball towards the far post evaded several desperate lunges and then in the final moments Grant Shenton, up for a corner, could not direct a diving header the right side of the post.

So the struggle goes on.  There is a sense that the Rams are 90% there towards having a fully competitive team but the final 10% is elusive.  Robbie Bromley, the latest addition from the Trafford stable, looks good at right back and with Ben Woods settled on the opposite flank at least the full back positions look good.  Shelton Payne will be a threat, there are good options in midfield and wide right but the left hand side remains a problem area and there is a lack of clarity about what happens when loan signings go back.