AFTER conceding four goals in the first half, Ramsbottom United gave themselves too much to do to claw anything back at home to high-flying Marine, falling to a 4-3 loss.

Starting the match in ninth position in the North West Division, the Rams knew they needed to improve on a recent series of indifferent results if they were to sustain promotion hopes.

Their opponents, in fourth position, were bound to provide stern opposition and so it proved.

After only four minutes, Marine took the lead with Brett Mbalanda powering above defenders to head in a corner.

While that was certainly not the start the home team wanted worse was to follow.

Just seven minutes later, a defensive miss-kick ended up gifting Mbalanda a free run in on goal and he slotted home to make it 2-0.

But Marine’s dangerous number 10 was forced out of action after a heavy fall following a hefty tackle from Danny Murphy that led to both players being substituted, Kelvin Lugsden coming on for Murphy.

For the first time in the game, the home team started playing with a bit more confidence.

Nic Evangelinos, playing in a more central striking role due to the absence of suspended Reuben Jerome, demonstrated impressive skill in linking up play, particularly with Iyrwah Gooden who was at his penetrating best.

It was a rasping shot from Gooden after 17 minutes that reduced Marine’s lead, the keeper only managing to parry it into the goal with Evangelinos closing in, to reduce the lead to 2-1.

But the Rams showed more defensive fallibility against set-pieces with Marine central defender Anthony Miles taking advantage to restore the visitors’ two-goal lead shortly after the half-hour mark.

At this point, the Rams’ defence seemed in complete disarray, and Marine capitalised further with a goal from their captain Niall Cummins to take the score to 4-1.

With half time looming, a corner from Tom Kennedy saw the Marine keeper again fumbling, palming the ball into his own net, reducing the deficit to 4-2.

The incident-packed first half ended with a yellow card for Jamie Rother as the teams went into the break with Marine two goals to the good.

It was the home team that came out with the bit between their teeth after half time and, after a clever chested lay-off by Evangelinos, Reece Fishwick came close to finishing off a fine team move, as his close-range effort flew inches past the post.

Daniel Nadiole, replacing Mason Falls at half time, came equally close.

Meanwhile at the other end, Marine were hardly getting a look-in against last year’s central defensive lynchpins Luke Thompson and Lugsden.

Eventually on 72 minutes, it was the Rams’ go-to combination of Kennedy and Evangelinos that narrowed the scoreline.

A rash tackle sent Evangelinos down in the are and, from the resulting penalty, Kennedy’s deft left foot reduced the margin to 4-3.

In a frenzied final 20 minutes, the home team’s passion slightly got the better of them with both Eddie Moran and Ben Hampson picking up further yellow cards.

And Marine were able to see out a victory that moved them up a place to third.

Though the Rams had not quite been able to claw their way back from three goals down, they had at least shown their mettle in pushing Marine all the way.

n Following Prescot’s victory in Tuesday night’s FA Trophy replay, they will now play in the next round on Saturday, meaning Rammy’s scheduled league fixture at Prescot has now been postponed.

The next game for the Rams is the Integro Cup tie at home to Bamber Bridge on Tuesday at 7.45pm.