The contrasting fortunes of Ramsey and Alconbury

EIGHT-nil was a bit harsh on Alconbury – but there was a marked gulf in class when they lost their 10th game out of 10 at a speedily rejuvinated Ramsey Town on Saturday. Richard Hughes reports.

EIGHT-nil was a bit harsh on Alconbury – but there was a marked gulf in class when they lost their 10th game out of 10 at a speedily rejuvinated Ramsey Town on Saturday.

Both clubs lost their managers and the majority of their squads during the summer and were forced to ask for more time before starting their Peterborough & District League campaigns.

But, while returning Ramsey manager Paul Taylor has been able to convince many of his former title-winning squad to return to Cricketfield Lane, Alconbury bosses Steve and Mark Wilson have found it altogether harder to attract the right kind of talent.

The brothers stepped up from the club’s reserve team after illness meant the previous management team became unavilable. After that, many of the players who were expected to join the club decided to go and play elsewhere.

General manager Mick Tarft was downbeat but realistic after the game, saying: “They’re trying to firefight. It’s not their fault, they can’t bring anyone in because no-one wants to come.

“They’ve got a few contacts and they are trying to do what they can.” Indeed, it’s some job the Wilson brothers have on their hands: in their 10 games so far, Alconbury have let in 47 goals and scored just three.

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Not that it looked like it was going to be so one-sided for the first 10 minutes on Saturday. Alconbury had two great chances which Ramsey goalkeeper Lloyd Turner-Potter managed to keep out. But then Mark Boucher was brilliant on the right hand side and fed Ramsey’s captain Dan Edwards, whose cheeky back heel sent the ball right into the path of Adam Browne, who scored the first of his three goals from 12 yards.

Edwards made it 2-0 on 14 minutes before Carl Taylor scored with an inswinging corner for the second time in two games. On 32 minutes Browne got his second, beating the Alconbury goalkeeper in a one-on-one, before Boucher, who had struggled to play on following a painful blow to his chest, was replaced by teenager Connor Withers.

Withers was excellent and unlucky not to score from one of the three chances that fell his way in the final 10 minutes. But first it was 5-0 when Browne completed his first-half hat-trick with a lovely drive from the left hand side of the goal.

If the visitors thought the worst was over; they were wrong. One minute 24 seconds into the second half it was 6-0 when the goalkeeper let a Taylor shot slip through his hands after the Ramsey player’s first shot had been blocked on the edge of the area.

Alconbury did have chances during the second half, which became fractious at points; even the Ramsey manager got a talking to from the referee who had his work cut out to keep control of the players at times.

Alex Mitchell hit a post for Ramsey late on before they added two more through Edwards and striker Justin Ives.

Having played just seven games, Ramsey, the current Premier Division champions, again look a force to be reckoned with, despite their summer shake-up.

“When I came back we had two players left who played today: Michael Cafferkey and Dan Edwards,” said Taylor. “We had to get quite a few players in and that’s why we asked for a little bit of grace.

“I was here three years ago when we won the League before and some of the lads who have come back were part of that side and have experience of winning a title at this level.”

Striker Jamie Darlow broke his leg midway through September though, just as things were beginning to take shape, and Taylor says his strike rate will be missed during the campaign: “Jamie’s such a massive loss – he’s a 30 goals a year man and was the top goalscorer in this division last season. He was one of the three that were left that played last year.”

But elsewhere the manager certainly has strength in depth. “The majority of them are local lads,” said Taylor. “Alex Mitchell lives in Sawtry and a couple live in Warboys, but the rest are Ramsey lads.

“A lot of the lads – Edwards, Darlow, Richard O’Neil and Oliver Verrall – played for Ramsey Colts when they were eight or nine, so they have a bit of an affinity with the club.

“It has been a hard process, but we’ll be competitive – I wouldn’t write us off; if we can put a good run together who knows where we can go.

“I think if we can finish in the top six with the problems we had at the start of the season, that’ll be good.”

As for Alconbury? Unfortunately, relegation from the Premier Division seems almost innevitable already.