NANTWICH TOWN 2, RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 0: If officials at the North West Counties League Premier Division drew a line from Chester to Congleton as it's southern boundary, the Rams would probably be Champions-elect by now.

As it is, every time they have to transcend that mythical barrier, travel sickness appears to kick in.

Defeats at Newcastle (4-1), Alsager (3-1) and Stone (4-1) already this season were compounded by this latest set-back at Nantwich.

Travel sickness also applied to one of the cars carrying the Rammy players, and as a result of a breakdown they arrived just in time to hear the referee's whistle for kick-off. Consequently, Matt Edgington found himself on the bench with Bernard Morley missing out altogether.

However, this could hardly explain how the same squad that demolished Bacup 4-0 four days earlier could produce such a woeful display.

The bonehard pitch may well have proved an unusual experience after the winter months, but it was the same for both sides. Ball control was made more difficult, although not surprisingly it was Ramsbottom who started the brighter.

After just two minutes a speculative lob from Adam Cook from outside the penalty area drifted inches wide. Cook then picked up an injury and was replaced by Edgington, whose first touch was to bring out a parried save from Pay in the home goal.

After 20 minutes Matt Walsh cut in from the right only to see his effort saved by the near post.

Then, after 22 minutes, in their first serious attack, the home side ventured down the right, and as the ball broke into the area, Mel Daniels stroked it into the bottom right-hand corner from 12 yards to give The Dabbers' an undeserved lead.

Worse was to follow just seven minutes later when the normally reliable Ramsbottom defence froze as a throw-in from the left bounced into the box, and John Scarlett promptly netted from close range.

The swift turnaround in fortunes saw the visitors' heads visibly drop after John Blackley saw a header go inches wide in an attempt to reduce the arrears,

Nantwich should have added a third just before the break, but this time Scarlett failed to connect with his head as the ball arched across the area with an open goal at his mercy.

The second half proved equally disappointing, and the only action of any note appeared, for the wrong reasons, five minutes from time.

Chris McKay was sent off for foul and abusive language, frustration no doubt being the cause. However, as a growing voice within the game is calling for match officials to stamp down on bad language, it is hard to argue with the red card decision.

As the race for the title now seems to be between Fleetwood and Newcastle, the aim must be for third spot.

RAMSBOTTOM :Andrews, Raywood, Brooks (Frost, 45), Kozlowski, Robertson, Blackley, McKay, Walsh, Saunders, Hayes (Purcell, 45), Cook (Edgington, 15).