Chatham took the lead just past the half-hour mark through on-loan teenage striker Jack Pallen, before Ramsgate scored in each half through James Gregory and skipper Warren Schulz, but the Medway visitors showed their character and two late goals from Michael Scott and a thunderbolt from striker Rob Denness ensured they secured back-to-back wins for the first time since last October.
“Yes it was blood and thunder without a shadow of a doubt,” O’Brien told www.kentishfootball.co.uk afterwards, as the quickly emerged from the dressing room.
“There were two sides who physically matched each other in workrate and passion and aggression. It was a bit topsy-turvy with some of the decisions but you’ve got to deal with that and get on with it and I think, to be honest, we done ever so well today.
“I’m very, very proud of my boys today.”
The Chatham boss was informed by his American goalkeeper Dean Ruddy and midfielder Brad Potter during the morning that they were both unavailable to travel to the game due to illness, so Jim Lyons partnered Matt Solly in the middle of the park and O’Brien joined his player-assistant, Lew Watts, as an unused substitute.
Ramsgate were also without Gary Lockyer who fell off his motorbike last night and goalkeeper Sam Mott and Rhys Lawson were both feeling under the weather through illness.
Sixteen-goal striker, Gary Mickelborough came in for Lawson, but Ward lost two central Luke Wheatley (concussion) and Will Graham (ankle) during the second half through knocks.
Chatham started the game the more lively of the two sides and matched Ramsgate in the battling stakes and gave as good as they got as they didn’t allow Ramsgate a sniff early on.
The best chance of breaking the deadlock fell to Chatham after a tight opening 22 minutes when Ramsgate failed to clear the ball a couple of times and right-sided midfielder Scott stroked a right-footed drive from just inside the box, which brought a low save out of Danny Twyman.
However, Chatham opened the scoring in controversial circumstances in the 33rd minute.
Strong target-man Denness jumped up with Wheatley just yards away from the Ramsgate technical area and both slumped to the ground with head injuries.
Referee Robert Allum, however, allowed play to continue and Denness’ header sent Pallan through on goal and after riding Graham’s challenge on the edge of the penalty area, the Dartford academy striker delicately chipped the ball over the advancing Twyman with his right-foot and the ball dropped down into an empty net.
Rams boss Jim Ward was seen to storm onto the pitch and as a result was sent off by the Croydon official, who made a string of bizarre decisions throughout this Kent derby.
“The referee, well, there’s two players lying prone on the pitch, one from each side, and he’s let the game play on,” explained Ward.
“I’m on the pitch trying to protect one of the guys (Denness), because he is in all sort of a state, a head clash.
“The referee’s come across and sent me off for protecting one of the other team’s players (Denness) and they’ve scored a goal at the same time! I don’t get that. It’s the first time that I’ve been sent off for that one, protecting one of their players but at the end of the day Chatham deserved to win it.”
Ward added: “The goal shouldn’t have stood, never, never in a million years! The laws of the game (state) when there’s a head injury, you stop it but he didn’t. He looked twice at the incident, their guy was lying on the floor flicking his legs all over the place, taking a fit.”
However, Ramsgate levelled six minutes later, another bizarre decision from the match referee.
Left-back Gregory played the ball forward and this was flicked on by Schulz and Mickelborough’s attempted flick forward resulted in him being fouled by central defender Chris Henry.
The home faithful were cursing their luck when Mr Allum brought play back, despite Tom Tsangarides driving a shot past Richard Stroud into the bottom far corner.
But those jeers turned to cheers when Gregory stepped up and stroked a left-footed free-kick from 25-yards, which bounced off the wall and deceived the former Carshalton Athletic keeper as the ball bounced into the corner of the net.
A game that could’ve boiled over during a niggly first half, Chatham should have seized the lad at the break, but after beating a dazed Wheatley, Pallen swept his shot past the post.
Chatham were denied early in the second half by a smart near post save from Twyman to thwart Pallen, after he smashed a low shot towards goal after Scott’s cross from the right.
But Ramsgate grabbed the lead after 65 minutes, through a goal that they must have worked on for hours and hours in training.
Gregory whipped in a delicious right-wing free-kick with his left foot which curled into a crowded penalty area and up popped Schulz to beat his marker and head down from the edge of the six-yard box and celebrated his fourteenth goal of the season as the ball bounced into the far corner.
The long-serving skipper should have increased the lead when he met Gregory’s free-kick just yards outside the penalty box on the left-hand side, but this time his header dropped over the crossbar.
But Chatham levelled with thirteen minutes remaining, through a header of their own.
Right-back Powell found himself down the left-wing after taking a throw and the ball came back to him and the former Tonbridge Angels and Dartford star sent in a precise cross to the far post and Scott beat Gregory to power home his header, beating Twyman at his near post.
Ramsgate missed a golden opportunity to equalise when another Gregory free-kick was flicked on by Schulz inside the penalty area and the ball dropped down to Joe Taylor who somehow blasted his ball over the bar from a couple of yards out.
That miss proved costly as Chatham grabbed the points with a stunning 87th minute winner.
Latching onto a ball over the top from substitute Justin Ashceri, the ball dropped down over Denness’ had and the stocky striker smashed a stunning right-footed hooked half-volley from th angle, which flew past a stranded Twyman into the top near corner.
Pressing for a dramatic late leveller, Schulz hooked shot bounced into Stroud’s grateful arms and substitute Andy Hadden blasted the ball over, but Chatham claimed the derby day points to leave Ward a frustrated man.
“I was ever so disappointed with our boys,” Ward bemoaned. “First of all fair play to Chatham, they were first to most balls. I can’t hide from that fact.”
Ward felt losing two of his central defenders was a blow. “Both my centre halves had to go off injured, obviously it disjoints you but they win the game with a wonder goal, a wonder strike, edge of the box, top corner. Nothing you can do about it!
“Second goal, I’m disappointed. We were beaten at the far post by a header, my left-back hasn’t dealt with it properly so all in all I’m very disappointed, especially after doing ever so well (winning at Ashford Town) on Wednesday.”
Ramsgate have nothing but “pride” to play for during their last remaining ten games of this season.
“Well, there’s pride and we didn’t give so much of that today,” he said. “I don’t say that very often with my players but today was a poor example of the way they should be treating this football club.
“I’m trying to find a team for next season. We’re thinking we’re getting close to one.”
O’Brien, meanwhile, spoke of his joy at beating Ramsgate at Jim’s back yard.
He said: “It’s all about work-rate and I think Jack took his goal well and Michael Scott was on the end of something that he should’ve been on the end of five months ago. We’ve been telling him to nick a goal at the back stick and Rob Denness’ finish for the last one - you try and find the words for that because I can’t!”
O’Brien added: “I think I can count on one hand how many times that I’ve come to Jim’s back yard and try and get a win as a player. They’re a very, very strong, physical side and in the past it’s done them in good stead.
“Again, today I thought they were strong and physical but my boys, I think, matched them.”
Ramsgate: Danny Twyman, Olly Gray, James Gregory, Luke Wheatley (Andy Hadden 51), Will Graham (Simon Pettit 66), Ben Laslett, Liam Quinn, Warren Schulz, Joe Taylor, Tom Tsangarides, Gary Mickelborough (Kenny Pratt 56).
Subs: Curtis Winnett, Brett Mills.
Goals: James Gregory 39, Warren Schulz 65
Booked: Will Graham 19, Warren Schulz 31, Kenny Pratt 90
Sent off: Jim Ward (Manager) 34
Chatham Town: Richard Stroud, Ray Powell, Ashley Probets, Matt Solly, Chris Henry, Ben Payne, Michael Scott, Jim Lyons, Jack Pallen (Justin Ascheri 67), Rob Denness, Jordan Kiffin.
Subs: Rico Biggs, Lew Watts, Alex O’Brien, Dan Ellis.
Goals: Jack Pallen 33, Michael Scott 77, Rob Denness 87
Booked: Michael Scott 31, Matt Solly 37, Ben Payne 65
Referee: Mr Robert Allum (Croydon, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Wayne Ingram (New Malden, Surrey) & Mr John Ryan (Worcester Park, Surrey)