Padiham 1 Ramsbottom 4
PHIL Dean scored a stunning individual goal as Ramsbottom United maintained their push for a play-off place following an emphatic victory in the East Lancashire derby.
The Rams raced to an early two-goal lead thanks to a brace from former Storks player Jordan Hulme inside 15 minutes.
That lead was extended to 3-0 on the hour mark by Lee Gaskell before Daniel Boyle pulled one back with 20 minutes left.
But any hopes of a Padiham fightback were extinguished by a contender for goal-of-the-season.
Dean gathered the ball just outside of his own area and set off on a mazy length of the field run, skipping past three challenges before confidently drilling his shot past Sean Davis in the Padiham goal.
Despite the stunning conclusion to the derby clash, Padiham were architects of their own downfall as their inability to defend corners proved so costly.
On 13 minutes, a left-wing Grant Spencer corner found Jordan Hulme almost on his knees at the far post as he managed to get his head to the ball and direct it into the roof of the net from close range.
Within two minutes, the same combination doubled the advantage.
This time, the corner was swung in from the right, and Hulme again found space by the far post to flick the ball in from five yards out.
Spencer had a shout for a penalty turned down when his shot appeared to strike a defender’s arm, before the same player sent in a rasping free-kick which Davis did well to save.
The Rams were causing their hosts all sorts of problems from set pieces and nearly scored a third from another corner, this time Gaskell’s header clipping the crossbar.
As the half progressed, Padiham finally made inroads into the Rams defence, with both Chris Turner and former Ram Keiron Pickup going close from free-kicks.
After the break, United continued to press forward and fine work on the left wing by Dean saw Gaskell go agonisingly close to nodding in a third goal.
But he was not to be denied on the hour mark as he shrugged off a defender to latch on to a neat through ball from Spencer, and drive it home from 15 yards past an exposed Davis in goal.
The Storks substitute Louis Mayers tested Grant Shenton in the Rams goal with a fierce 25-yarder, moments before the home side found a consolation.
Boyle found space to fire home from close range as the ball fell kindly for him in the area to make the score 3-1.
But that was as good as it got for Steve Wilkes’s side as Dean produced the game’s outstanding piece of skill just four minutes later.
The visitors continued to attack.
Substitute Darren Green saw his goal-bound effort turned round the post by Davis and from the resulting corner, Gaskell looked on in frustration as his header clipped the outside of the post.
Green went close with a late free-kick as the Rams completed a comfortable win to confirm their challenge for the end-of-season play-offs.