Lancaster City’s play-off hopes took another blow on Saturday as they lost to rivals Ramsbottom United at Giant Axe.
On a heavy pitch and in high winds the visitors’ confidence and talent proved too much for the Dolly Blues to handle.
The scoreline was made more convincing by the lucky, late goal from winger Phil Dean, Mike Hale’s low save deflecting back off the diminutive winger and in, but it was his brilliant and unstoppable wide play that made the difference over the 90 minutes.
In the opening exchanges City were penned into their own half by strong winds and some attacking intent, shots from range flew narrowly wide of both posts as the Rams pressed their advantage.
The Dolly Blues hung on gamely until the 40th minute when a swift passing move was rounded off by visiting striker Lee Gaskell.
In a rare foray forward City should have notched too after a Tom Kilifin cross found Mark Jackson unmarked at the back post.
He headed goalwards only to see it hit a defender as City appealed for handball seemingly more out of hope and frustration than anything else.
Midfielder Rob Walker also hit the bar with a delightful long-range effort.
Walker did well alongside Garry Hunter in central midfield showing good composure on the ball in the face of some rough treatment, The Rams’ Gary Stopforth could well have seen red for his ugly lunge on the youngster but escaped with a booking.
When City found the space and had the composure to play they looked good, it was just too sporadic.
Just before the hour mark they put together their tidiest passing exchange of the game and the pressure told as visiting ‘keeper Grant Shenton provided some slapstick control and gifted the ball for Jordan Connerton to tap into an empty net.
At the other end, the decisive strike on 72 minutes was fortuitous, a low bobbling effort that left Hale standing and crept in at the back post to make it 2-1 and deflate City.
While the defeat and the late gloss to make it 3-1 will have hurt the Dolly Blues it was against one of the only sides to have truly outplayed them this term and a side with the resources to leave City’s star man of last season, Darren Green, warming the bench for 90 minutes.
City will next travel to promotion hopefuls Darlington 1883 on Saturday, in what is shaping up to be a make or break fixture for their play-off hopes.
Lancaster City: Hale 6, Elderton 6, Henry 6, Steel 5, Marshall 5, Hunter 6, Winder 5, Walker 6 (Clark 83), Connerton 6, Jackson 5, Kilifin 6 (Wearing 76). Subs not used: Hudson, Akrigg, Millar.
Ramsbottom United: Shenton, Warrender, Roberts, Stopforth, Pilkington, Priestley, Spencer, Burton, Gaskell, Hulme, Dean. Subs not used: Toth, Green, Morley, Johnson
Referee: Leigh Doughty
Star man: Rob Walker - A difficult game for all but his touches and determination were impressive