ANOTHER tough encounter was on the cards with Alan Lord's Collieries side making the short journey to the Riverside, and this was no exception as the visitors made every attempt to disrupt the Rams flowing football.

However, a spirited performance and their superior class ensured the home side ended their five game run without a victory and helped to push themselves towards the higher echelons of the table.

After the bitter taste of defeat against Alsager, manager Derek Egan selected his strongest side available with the reintroduction of Matt Edgington and Adam Cook, who had looked particularly dangerous after being given 45 minutes to impress.

The visitors have always been renowned for not taking any prisoners and after their narrow defeat away at the league leaders felt confident of gaining a positive result at the Riverside.

The Rams made the early running in the opening exchanges and after a few dangerous crosses flew marginally out of the reach of striker Michael Saunders, the lively forward pounced on a calamitous error from Atherton fullback Mark Parry, and calmly steered the ball into the back of the net.

This early goal lifted the atmosphere by the partisan crowd made up of loyal Ramsbottom fans and the lead was almost doubled on nine minutes when an enterprising run from Adam Kozlowski ended in the same player firing towards goal but tipped over the upright by Osborne.

Moments later the Rams were made to pay for the missed chance when a fierce strike bounced awkwardly and after Mark Andrews failed to clear the ball to safety, Atherton's Anthony Johnson fired into the roof of the net.On 32 minutes a slick move involving Saunders and Edgington culminated in the ball being fired across the face of goal inches from the stretching leg of Bernard Morley. The pressure continued on Osborne's goal and only a typical poor finish from a central defender kept the score-line on an even keel when John Blackley fired high and wide.

After a collision between Edgington and Dave Conlan the Atherton player was given his marching orders, quickly followed by manager lan Lord who was unhappy with the first decision.

Neither player appeared to be guilty of any wrong doing and the disappointing decision dented the Atherton spirits ending their hopes of gaining a result.

Despite the frantic attempts to stop the Rams playing, the second goal duly arrived on 72 minutes when Saunders freed Edgington in acres of space and he made no mistake after cutting infield and firing into the bottom corner.

As the minutes ticked by the hosts looked more and more likely to add to their tally and after Saunders missed a great chance, the combination of substitutes John Morris and Keiron Fletcher sealed the victory when the latter rose well to flick the ball home.

They return to cup action on Saturday when Consett make the long journey south to the Riverside in the FA Vase First Round, kick-off 3.00pm.

RAMSBOTTOM: Andrews, Raywood, Spencer, Kozlowski, Robertson, Blackley, Edgington, Denning, Saunders, Morley, Cook. Subs: Morris (7 for Denning), Mackay (for Spencer), Fletcher (for Edgington).