By John Haslam and Tony Cunningham

THE curse of 13 struck Ramsbottom United for the second time in a week as they lost 3-2 at Dunston on Tuesday night.

Having exited the Integro League Cup at Trafford the previous Tuesday, the team’s first defeat in all competitions at the 13th attempt, the long midweek trip up to Gateshead saw the Rams suffer their first league defeat in 13 matches, as they failed to overhaul leaders Workington and grab top spot in the BetVictor League North West Division.

That was the incentive as the team made the journey up to mid-table Dunston for a rearranged game, with the original Saturday fixture having been called off back in November.

The home side started the game on the front foot with a couple of early chances, but it was the Rams who opened the scoring as early as the 14th minute.

Following a goalmouth scramble, the final touch fell to leading scorer Nic Evangelinos who poked the ball home.

The lead did not last for long however, as just seven minutes later, a corner for the home side was initially well saved by Tom Stewart in the visitors’ goal, but Dunston centre-forward Scott Heslop reacted quickest to the rebound to level the score.

On the half-hour mark the Rams once again took the lead, and again it was Evangelinos with a beauty of a screamer from outside the box that rattled the back of the net.

Holding a slender lead at the break, the east Lancashire side looked to extend that as the second half got under way.

Iyrwah Gooden saw his header wonderfully palmed away by the home custodian, who was called into action moments later to prevent a third goal going in.

But that was as good as it got for the visitors, as Dunston began to exert pressure that had the away side on the back foot for the remainder of the game.

Another piece of poor defending allowed the hosts to level the score again with Liam Brooks netting from close range on the hour mark, and 13 minutes later the comeback was complete, as Heslop notched his second of the night, again from close range, and Dunstan were in the ascendancy.

Manager Chris Willcock threw on a couple of substitutes in Mason Fawns and newly-resigned Ben Richardson with 10 minutes to go, replacing Gooden and Josh Hmami, and it was Fawns who came closest to grabbing a point when his turn and shot in the last minute sailed inches wide, but a point after a disappointing last 45 minutes, would probably have been undeserved.

So the failure to leapfrog over Workington makes this coming Saturday’s game all the more important.

The Reds arrive at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium still in top spot, but just one point ahead of the Rams.

A big crowd is expected for what is certainly the league’s match of the day, which will see the winners top of the pile in what is increasingly becoming a fascination promotion chase in the closest the division has been for many seasons.

n Rammy had come from behind to win 3-2 at Brighouse Town on Saturday to keep their automatic promotion hopes on course.

Daniel Naidole completed the turnaround with an 81st-minute winner, scoring four minutes after Evangelinos had drawn the Rams level.

Hmami gave Chris Willcock’s side the lead at the break, scoring on the half hour.

Hmami, who has extended his loan from Welsh side TNS to the end of the season, beat the home keeper with a drive from the edge of the area.

But Brighouse hit back with two quick goals just after the restart through Thomas Haigh and Joe Jagger to take the lead.

The Rams needed to respond but, despite having their fair share of possession, the hosts managed to keep them at bay.

But with 15 minutes remaining, Fawns replaced Gooden and, as has been the case in recent weeks, the substitutions made the desired impression.

Within moments of entering the field Fawns played a clever pass through to fellow sub Jamie Rother whose well-struck effort brought a fine low save from Smith but leading scorer Evangelinos reacted quickest to bundle the ball over the line and the visitors had restored parity.

Evangelinos then turned provider when his superb cross was headed home by ex-Brighouse midfielder Naidole.