PHIL Dean was on target twice as Ramsbottom brushed aside Kendal with a destructive first-half blitz to maintain their charge for the play-offs.

Returning to winning ways after successive draws, Dean gave the Rams a perfect start with the winger breaking the deadlock inside the opening minute.

Former Kendal midfielder Gary Stopforth added a second before Dean’s header completed the scoring as the Mintcakes barely troubled on-loan Chester keeper Martin Fearon.

Jack Smith was unavailable due to a leg injury and was replaced by Michael Stringfellow, a move which saw skipper Warren Beattie return to the Kendal engine room.

Only 59 seconds were on the clock when Dean cut across the Kendal defence to meet Lee Gaskell’s low cross from the right and fire high into Danny MacDonald’s net.

Shortly afterwards, Kendal were forced into an early change as Tom Houghton replaced Callum Hoctor before Danny Mitchley tested Fearon from a Rob Wilson corner.

Gaskell currently heads the Evo-Stik First Division North scoring charts with 25 goals but the prolific marksman missed a golden opportunity to double the Ramsbottom lead on 18 minutes.

Collecting a square pass from strike partner Jordan Hulme, neat footwork saw the former Morecambe forward create space in front of goal only to inexplicably miss the target.

After Ricardo Egidi blazed high and wide after making progress down the Kendal left, Ramsbottom extended their advantage through a familiar Parkside Road face.

Despite the presence of Craig Carney on the goal-line, Stopforth was on hand to volley home after 32 minutes following Gaskell’s initial blocked effort.

Gaskell recently brought up his 100th goal for the club but misfired again moments later, unable to beat MacDonald after latching onto Ricky Mercer’s mis-placed backpass.

But five minutes before the break, the home side effectively ended matters as a contest with Stopforth’s cross to the far post headed past MacDonald by the lively Dean.

Ramsbottom agonisingly missed out on the play-offs last season by a solitary point and have intriguing fixtures remaining against Farsley, Warrington and Bamber Bridge this time around.

And with bigger battles to come, the hosts appeared to take their foot off the gas as Kendal started the second period with more purpose.

Wilson’s curling effort was blocked by centre-half Billy Priestley and while Carney and Mitchley forced Fearon into the action, the saves were comfortable for the ex-Lancaster City stopper.

Although Kendal did improve after the break, they were unable to work their way back into the game as Mitchley fizzed a 25-yard free-kick past the post on the hour-mark.

At the other end, former Clitheroe striker Hulme blasted wide after collecting a long ball over the Kendal defence as clear-cut opportunities were at a premium.

The final chance fell to Ramsbottom’s Grant Spencer on 82 minutes, with the substitute forcing MacDonald into action as his low shot was turned around the post.

With only two defeats from their last 18 games, Ramsbottom continue to impress in only their second season at this level after being crowned North West Counties League champions in 2012.

For their part, Kendal will look to arrest a run of three consecutive defeats against Harrogate Railway Athletic on Saturday in their penultimate home game of the campaign.

Ramsbottom United: Martin Fearon, Joel Pilkington, Owen Roberts, Gary Stopforth, Daniel Warrender (c) (Steve Howson 56), Billy Prisestley, Dominic Smalley (Cedric Krou 79), Scott Burton, Lee Gaskell, Jordan Hulme, Phil Dean. Subs not used: Tommy Toth, Lee Pugh

Kendal Town: Danny MacDonald, Colin Watson, Callum Hoctor (Tom Houghton 3), Michael Stringfellow (Gary Basterfield 79), Ricky Mercer, Warren Beattie, (c), Rob Wilson, Craig Carney, Danny Mitchley, Ricardo Egidi, Aaron Fleming (Mike Rushton 64). Subs not used: Jamie Pattison

Attendance: 228