RAMSBOTTOM United will go into tomorrow’s Evo-Stik League First Division North play-off final against Bamber Bridge (3pm) on the back of their best performance of the season.
That is the verdict of Rams co-manager Anthony Johnson after his side won a dramatic semi-final at Darlington 1883 2-0 on Wednesday which ended with the referee requiring police protection from the baying home fans.
The Rams kept their composure in the most hostile of atmospheres and ran out worthy winners thanks to first-half goals from Billy Priestley and Jordan Hulme.
But the same cannot be said of the 1,900-strong Quakers faithful.
Already furious that Rams defender Owen Roberts was booked and not sent-off for a first-minute tackle which left Leon Scott with a broken leg, their anger boiled over after the final whistle.
Two Darlington players, Steven Thompson and Jordan Robinson, were red-carded during the game and a handful of Darlington fans ran on to the pitch to confront referee Kevin Mulraine.
But Johnson, who runs the Rams with Bernard Morley, insists the incident should not overshadow the final result.
Johnson said: “Everything was against us but the lads went into the lion’s den, with 2,000 fans against them, and produced their best performance of the season.
“We absolutely dominated them in the first half and then in the second half we played the game and not the occasion.
“Every single one of our players were a credit to themselves and the club.
“They went to one of the biggest clubs in non-league football and got a result. It was very humbling.”
Johnson was also quick to defend Roberts for his challenge on Scott, which the Darlington manager described as ‘horrendous’.
Johnson said: “Owen Roberts is an absolute gentleman of a man.
“He had to make the tackle and the referee, who was one of the strongest referees I have ever seen, made the right decision.”
The Rams will have a fully-fit squad for tomorrow’s final against Bamber Bridge.
Brig, who beat Leek Town in their semi-final tie, have been handed home advantage as they finished higher in the table.
Johnson said: “After seven games of the season we were near the bottom of the table and everyone had written us off.
“But since September we’ve only lost four games in the league and we’ve developed a siege mentality.”