DEFENCES were on top as Radcliffe and Ramsbottom United failed to muster a goal in their Easter Monday clash, meaning Atherton Collieries took the Evo-Stik West crown.

The stalemate did see Radcliffe secure second place in the table, meaning home advantage in the play-offs, while Rammy can book their own spot among the post-season shake-up this weekend.

Both teams had enjoyed 2-1 wins two days earlier, Boro beating hosts Colwyn Bay with goals by Callum Grogan and Tunde Owolabi, and the Rams sending Mossley away empty-handed, with Jamie Rainford and Iyrwah Gooden scoring.

But the local rivals’ scoring touch deserted them as they came up against each other on Monday.

Boro looked the brighter of the two sides early on at the Neuven Stadium, Scott Metcalfe swinging a free kick in from the right-hand side and Richard Smith heading into the side netting.

The hosts were denied a penalty claim when Owolabi went down under a challenge from the Rams’ Luke Thompson but was booked for simulation. The visitors’ Kelvin Lugsden also saw yellow for his part in the ensuing fracas.

Rammy had their turn to feel aggrieved soon after as Rainford was played through on goal and went to ground under Prince Haywood’s challenge, but a goal-kick was awarded.

Radcliffe began to take the initiative but were thwarted by the Rams’ keeper, Sam Ashton.

After Elliot Rokka rattled the post Metcalfe’s delightful ball into the box led to a brilliant double save, denyiong Ben Wharton and somehow turning Owalabi’s rebound away. The keeper’s heroics also saw him deny Grogan at close range.

The final effort of the half came in stoppage time as Rokka tried his luck from the edge of the box, only to have his hopes dashed by the excellent Ashton.

The second half started as a cagey affair, with both teams struggling to get a true foothold in the game.

Metcalfe’s curling effort was well saved by the opposition keeper and Ashton would later prove a thorn in Metcalfe’s side with another excellent stop.

A rare mistake from Grogan almost led to Ramsbottom snatching a lead, when the ball was nicked off him inside his own box, but Nic Evangelinos was unable to capitalise and his shot hit the side netting.

The final 15 minutes was littered with errors and more misplaced, over-hit, under-hit and wayward passes.

Neither team could find any fluency or fluidity in their play. However, Boro could have taken all three points right at the death as second-half substitute Craig Lindfield had two great opportunities, but he could not keep his finish down on both occasions.

As the full-time whistle blew and results from elsewhere filtered through, it became apparent Radcliffe had indeed cemented their place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Ramsbottom still need to avoid defeat in their final league game at home to Kidsgrove this weekend to guarantee their spot.

However, a run of 14 away league games without defeat shows how much this side has improved since early season, and to be in with a chance of promotion through the play-offs is something most Rams fans would have found hard to comprehend in autumn.