The last 16. The actual last 16 of the FA Trophy. The Rams had never even been close to this stage of the competition before but here we were, after the drama and the euphoria of that epic night on the south coast.
And our reward was the visit of National League outfit AFC Fylde, not exactly strangers to our particular corner of Lancashire.
However, the weather was playing a significant part in attempting to put a dampener on things and the prospect of a bumper Saturday afternoon crowd at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium was quashed by a postponement due to the snow and ice that had dumped itself on the ground over the previous couple of days.
It was all the more disappointing as, having returned from Weymouth with the historic 3-1 victory, the confidence was sky high in the ranks with the next two league games seeing 5-0 and 6-0 successes.
The game was moved to the next Tuesday night and survived two inspections to ensure the game went ahead, although the rain didn’t relent as the match progressed making the already soggy pitch soggier by the minute.
Still, a healthy crowd of 746 packed into the stadium and they were to be royally entertained with a match that will forever be etched in the memories.
The FA Trophy run was the gift that just kept giving!
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 5 AFC FYLDE 5
Buildbase FA Trophy Round 3
Harry Williams Riverside Stadium
Tuesday 5 February 2019
There was just one change from the Weymouth replay starting XI as Kelvin Lugsden came in for Khalil Osi-Efa to face an AFC Fylde side chasing promotion to the Football League either automatically or through the play-offs.
And the game started with no shortage of action. Eddie Moran fired a shot just wide before the visitors’ Danny Rowe shot over the bar and then found Ryan Ellison in the way of his second effort with the defensive slide on the slippery surface.
However, they were not to be denied for too much longer when Serhat Tasdemir slotted him the opener on 10 minutes, although there was a hint that he might have been offside.
As the rain continued to fall, the Rams had a strong call for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike a Fylde defender’s hand but the referee waved the appeals away.
The Coasters added a second just after the half hour mark when Nick Haughton found himself in space and fired a shot that worked it’s way through the hosts defence and past Sam Ashton to extend their advantage.
Heads might have fallen in the home side ranks – but far from it as they hit back to equalise in the space of 90 seconds.
Luke Thompson’s cracked an outstanding header to pull one back before Nic Evangelinos – who else in this incredible FA Trophy run – shot through the packed penalty area and found the back of the net for 2-2.
But the visitors were still able to take a lead into the break as the game continued at breakneck speed. Despite Tom Kennedy’s excellent free kick which looked to be targetting the top corner only to be denied by a fine save, Fylde went straight down the pitch and, from a corner, Jordan Tunnicliffe rose to head home to put the visitors ahead at the interval.
3-2 became 4-2 within two minutes of the second half starting. An unfortunate error in the Rams defence released Tasmedir and he would fine enough space to ease the visitors back to their two goal cushion.
Having pulled the game back to 2-2 and given the enthralled audience plenty to consider, this two goal burst either side of the break deflated one and all. What was to come though was “Roy of the Rovers” stuff!
The Rams made a change just before the hour when Ruben Jerome replaced Iyrwah Gooden and it was something of an inspired move.
Evangelinos got his second of the evening and his ninth of the FA Trophy campaign, as he smashed a shot low past the clutching keeper to make it 4-3 – and renewed hope in the increasingly wet crowd.
This goal gave the hosts some renewed vigor and, with confidence built, levelled the scores once again as Jerome looked to be crossing the ball in but it found it’s way past the stranded stopper for 4-4. What is going on!!!
What was going on was that this drove the Rams into another gear and, roared on by the invested audience, Evangelinos completed his hat-trick which sent them and the players and support staff into raptures.
It might have been a scruffy goal, bundled in through a packed penalty area from little more than a couple of yards, but it completed a sensational, remarkable, unthought of comeback in the most horrendous of conditions.
The home side had dominated the second half and this was nothing more than they deserved for their endeavours to go in front for the first time and a quarter-final tie at home to either Carshalton or former Football League side Barnet was within grasp.
But if there was any lessons to be learnt from this game, for those in attendance or those listening intently on the radio, is that anything could still happen. And, unfortunately for the Rams, it did.
With just three minutes left to hang on to this incredible 5-4 lead, it wasn’t to be as Andy Bond equalised to square up the scores once again and force yet another replay – the FIFTH of this monumental run.
With thanks to @FACupFactfile, this is a record that the Rams hold alone, that no side had ever played in five consecutive rounds with replays ensuing in the same season in the FA Trophy.
On a heavy pitch and in driving rain, this was a match that no-one will forget. Both sides would have left the field drained and disappointed not to have sealed their place in the quarter-finals there and then – the Rams probably slightly more disappointed than their relieved visitors.
But they would have certainly known that they had played their part in a magnificent game that shone brightly for the non-league game.
They had done it previously – against Yaxley and Pickering Town and Workington and Weymouth. Could they do it again in seven days time at Mill Farm?
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Sam Ashton, Tom Kennedy (capt), Kyle Jacobs, Eddie Moran, Luke Thompson, Ryan Ellison, Iyrwah Gooden (Ruben Jerome 58mins), Jamie Rother, Jason Carey (Anthony Donaldson 79mins), Kieran Lugsden, Nic Evangelinos. Subs not used: Khalil Osi-Effa, Martin Parker, Jamie Hart.
AFC Fylde’s version of the match report: https://www.afcfylde.co.uk/report-cup-game-for-the-ages-at-ramsbottom/
AFC Fylde’s pictures from the game: https://www.afcfylde.co.uk/gallery-ramsbottom-united-5-5-afc-fylde/