The Wrens must have been thinking ‘if only’ after the match, for they could have snatched a draw, but Sheffield deserved the points overall if only for their sharper cutting edge.
That apart, though, there was not that much to choose between the two sides, as Rainworth showed that they are not so far from the front runners.
In the end well taken goals by Steve Woolley and Conor Higginson in the 16th and 33rd minutes sent former Wren Mark Shaw’s Sheffield home with the three points which consolidated the top place they had gained in midweek.
The efforts of Wrens joint managers Lee Wilkinson and Billy Millar to bring in a couple of extra players to bolster their depleted ranks did not bear fruit, and the search goes on.
But they were boosted by the return of popular central defender Tommy Hannigan, who rejoined from Belper Town two days earlier after having moved to Christ Church Meadow during the close season.
Hannigan came straight into the side at the heart of the defence, with skipper Steve Kennedy switching to right back where he performed heroically, Rob Paling moving across to the left.
Goalkeeper Joe McCormack made his first league start after replacing the injured Gavin Saxby at half time in the 2-1 defeat by Goole the previous Tuesday, and Kyle Gee-Pemberton went straight into the starting line-up on the right flank after recovering from injury.
Danny Bacon began up front alongside the returning Craig Mitchell who missed the Goole game through work commitments, and there was a return to the starting line-up for George Zuerner.
But missing, apart from Saxby, were suspended defenders Cameron Fearon and Jamie Goodacre, while midfielder Ricky Hanson
and defender Joe Carter were away, in Hanson’s case on his honeymoon.
Meanwhile cultured midfielder Danny Mayman and strikers Sean Cann and Danny Simpson continued to be sidelined through injury.
So the absence of a midweek game this week is a blessing in no need of any disguise.
Half-chances were traded in the opening 10 minutes, but Sheffield won a couple of corners in quick succession and, from the second just after the quarter-hour mark, they took the lead.
The flag kick from the left was played short , and skipper Steve Woolley cut in from the left, saw a half-inch of space, and drove the ball inside McCormack’s near post.
Rainworth did not lose heart—how understandable it would have been if they had given their recent run of results—and when Gee-Pemberton picked out Mitchell with a top class pass the striker’s hurried shot was too high.
Sheffield keeper Dan Whatsize preserved parity in the 26th minute with a point balnk save of Chris Timons’ header onto Ian Clarke’s free kick.
Paling got in the way of Ashley Longstaff
’s cross-shot after good link play by Woolley and |Higginson, but Higginson doubled the visitors’ lead in the 33rd minute. Put through one on one with McCormack, the home keeper did very well to spread himself and block, but the rebound shot upwards, and Higginson headed over both the recovering keeper and the covering Paling into the net.
Still Rainworth refused to lie down, and Bacon was desperately unlucky four minutes before the break with a tremendous rising 25-yarder that clipped the top of the angle of bar and post.
Gee-Pemberton was questionably booked for an alleged dive when he went down under a challenge in the visitors’ box and, in stoppage time, Clarke’s 30-yard direct free kick was spectacularly caught by Whatsize at his right post.
Three minutes into the restart Bacon almost created another chance with a neat flick over Callum Harrison, who recovered to take the ball off the ex-Stags striker’s toe.
Harrison met the same fate at the other end by Kennedy in the 59th minute, and when a minute later Lee Cooksey won the ball and embarked on a darting run his finish did not match his approach.
Kennedy did well again to block a strong effort from Longstaff, but when he inadvertently handled in a dangerous position on the edge of the area Woolley chipped his direct shot too high.
But Rainworth refused to give up the fight, even as time ran out, and in the closing stages Dan White headed Clarke’s cross behind for a corner from which Timons was penalised for climbing, and the last half-chance inthe 87th minute saw Whatsize tipping away Clarke’s free kick from the right.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Kennedy, Paling, Timons, Hannigan, Cooksey, Gee-Pemberton (Jenkins 62), Clarke, Bacon, Mitchell (Wood 85), Zuerner (Francis 72). Sub not used: Briggs.
SHEFFIELD: Whatsize, Turner, Weir, Harrison, Hadfield, White, Roney (Glass 62), Richardson (Graham 80), Longstaff, Higginson (Gosling 77), Woolley. Subs not used: Poulton, Shaw.
REFEREE: Alix Pashley of North Wingfield.
GOALS: Sheffield—Woolley 16; Higginson 33.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Steve Kennedy; Sheffield and overall—Steve Woolley.