Lancaster City 0-5 Ramsbottom United

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Lancaster City suffered a first-half mauling against Ramsbottom United on Saturday on the way to their third consecutive defeat.

Four first-half goals, smashed in on the counter, put the Dolly Blues to the sword as a defensive reshuffle back-fired and City were deservedly dominated.

The visitors played neat football and whipped forward down the flanks - pretty much City’s desired formula - and forward Lee Gaskell hit a seven-minute brace to kick-start the goals.

His first came from the penalty spot after Neil Marshall, who was shifted to left-back to accommodate new signing Rory Winters at centre-half, lunged in from behind to pull down Philip Dean.

Gaskell’s second was a delightful finish from 10 yards, a faded side-footed effort into the top corner after great work down the left from Jon Richardson.

Richardson hit his brace even quicker, a five-minute smash and grab in similar fashion as he finished first-time from a cross from the left before tapping into an empty net just two minutes before the break after Dominic Smalley advanced untroubled down the right and cut back.

City were horrendously misshapen defensively and despite, at times, looking bright going forward, they were second best.

Remarkably they had the ball in the net first on just four minutes after Darren Green beat a man to advance into the box and cross for Max Rothwell to head home but he was flagged offside.

Their only other attempt in the first 45 came from Billy McKenna who shanked a shot high and wide again with the scores goalless.

The addition of Winters, an accomplished centre-back, saw Gavin Clark drop to the bench and Ryan Elderton move from left-back to central midfield and the changes seemed a little too much, City were ragged and easily dissected.

At the break right-back Ben Hudson made way for Clark and Winters shifted to right-back - where he has played for Kendal Town this term - Marshall took up his familiar spot next to Danny Gregson and Elderton back in at left-back.

There can be little doubt that the visitors rested on their laurels but City improved dramatically and if they had taken their second-half chances they would have been in with a shout of saving face here.

A further reshuffle saw joint boss Neil Wainwright come off the bench and add a more direct style to the wing-play, not to mention a welcome bit of defensive cover and Rob Wilson replaced the stand-out Rothwell to put in an equally impressive shift.

The missed chances began from 12 yards as Dave Swarbrick missed his first penalty in more than ten years - according to the wide man’s Twitter account.

Perhaps the best chances fell to striker Tom Kilifin who first headed a chance wide at the back post before heading a Wainwright cross over the bar from six yards.

Wilson made some brilliant driving runs, one which led him into the box to shoot at the ‘keeper from a tight angle and another which saw him tripped, with the follow-up free-kick from range well saved.

The visitors kept the counter attacks coming and Danny McDonald - in for new signing Richard Whiteside between the sticks as he pulled his groin warming up - kept the scoreline vaguely respectable with three excellent stops - the first a brilliant reaction save to deny Gaskell a hat-trick.

He could do nothing to stop Mark Ayres’ header on 89 minutes that compounded City’s misery, a game to forget indeed.

Lancaster City: McDonald 6, Hudson 5 (Clark 45), Marshall 5, Gregson 5, Winters 5, Elderton 5, McKenna 5 (Wainwright 53), Rothwell 6 (Wilson 53), Kilifin 6, Green 5, Swarbrick 6. Subs not used: Naylor, Wheeler.

Ramsbottom United: Shenton, Smalley, Pilkington, Stopforth (Kuba-Kuba 65), Ayres, Warrender, Spencer (Pickup 65), Edghill, Gaskell, Robinson (Sharples 65), Dean.

Referee: Paul Hodskinson

Attendance: 220

Star man: Max Rothwell - A game first-half, battled well and deserved more game time.