Ramsbottom United boss Steve Wilkes felt his team were denied a blatant penalty in Thursday night’s 2-1 NWCFL Premier Division defeat at local rivals Bury - but praised his team’s efforts on the night.

The home side took an early lead, no doubt hoping that would open the floodgates in their quest for promotion.

But in front of the biggest crowd ever to watch a Ramsbottom United match, the Rams refused to buckle, and gave as good as they got on a horrendous playing surface.

The match was in doubt due to the weather and the state of the pitch, but both sides produced better quality football than was expected.

The Shakers took just seven minutes to take the lead. A cross in from the right-hand side found Connor Comber, who stroked the ball past keeper Chris Thompson and into the far corner.

Far from deflating the visitors, the Rams set off looking for an equaliser, with Matty Birchall cutting in from the left only to see his curling shot sail over the bar.

Harvey Whyte and Harvey Hayhurst both had quickfire attempts charged down, while a scramble in the six-yard box was eventually cleared to safety.

The hosts were denied early in the second half thanks to some determined defensive interventions, but the Rams countered with a fine cross from Hayhurst, although Whyte’s attempt was easily gathered by Wright in the home goal.

The keeper then snuffed out a close-range opportunity for Oumar Camara before Bury clinched a second, and ultimately match-winning goal on 61 minutes.

A long through ball found Dean Pinnington, as he darted between three Rams defenders, shaking off the challenges and firing past the advancing Thompson.

The home side should have sealed the win with 10 minutes to go as an excellent cross from the left found the head of Andy Briggs, but he inexplicably put it over the bar from six yards out.

Fellow-substitute Tanaka Cherera was foiled as Thompson turned his rasping drive round the post, before a glimmer of hope arrived for the visitors in the 90th minute.

A ball played into the area found Birchall, and he confidently picked his spot to halve the arrears.

With the encouragement of the healthy number of visiting supporters, the Rams went looking for a point saver, and were denied what looked like a penalty, with the referee waving play on. Had it been given and scored, Bury could have had no complaints, as a draw would probably have been a fair result.

Rams boss Wilkes said: “I’m so proud of my players, to put in a performance on that kind of pitch was outstanding.

“We all know the game would never have been played six weeks ago but it was given the go-ahead due to only nine days remaining in the season.

“I’ll have to be careful how I word the next sentence, but at 2-1 in the fifth minute of the six added, we were denied a most blatant penalty and by that I mean even the Bury players said it was a stonewall penalty. If there were 150 in the ground, the referee gives it, but in front of 3,800 he somehow didn’t.”