LEAGUE leaders Grantham extracted their revenge for their early season home defeat by Rainworth—but they left Kirklington Road knowing they had been given a severe battle by the lowly home side.
The Gingerbreads, whose magnificent away following boosted the attendance to well over double that of the preceding Saturday, delighted their travelling fans by taking a sisth minute lead through Rhys Lewis from a controversially awarded free kick.
But debutant Ryan Goward, who had only joined the Wrens earlier in the day from Carlton Town, unleashed a 15th minute screamer to level the scores.
Rainworth were denied the lead by an offside flag when Ben Spargo netted five minutes into the restart—a goal which even Gingerbreads manager Jimmy Albans said afterwards should have counted.
But it didn’t, and Grantham notched the winner 10 minutes later when 20-goal striker Paul Grimes caught Ale Barcherini off his line to put away a lob which may well have had some assistance from the strengthening wind.
Wrens manager Kevin Gee had stated after Saturday’s match that if they tried to play Grantham at their own game they would get murdered, and he adopted a 3-5-2 formation to counter their free-scoring attack—and it so nearly worked for him.
Goward was not the only newcomer into the side, for former Mansfield, Kidderminster, Tamworth, Carlton and Hucknall midfielder Curtis Shaw also made his debut.
But the club had been shocked by the sudden departure of defender Tommy Hannigan to relegation rivals Quorn, who if rumours are to be believed, appear to be throwing money at their survival bid.
In the end Hannigan was not missed, for Lee Cooksey returned to the central defensive berth which he had filled so well during skipper Steve Kennedy’s recent four-match ban, and quite simply carried on where he had left off until being substituted late on, as Gee sent on striker Danny Simpson in a vain last ditch bid to rescue a point.
Indeed no-one in a white shirt had any cause for recrimination about their own performance, although Shaw’s lack of match fitness showed at times, but he promises, when fit, to be a major capture as the Wrens seek extra creativity to supply more chances to improve on their lack of goals.
That lack was emphasised as Grantham had Sean Cann—still Rainworth’s leading scorer—on the bench as an unused substitute.
The visitors began by asking some searching questions of the home defence, and when the impressive Lee Potts cut in from the left and laid the ball off to Martin Ball in the third minute, Ball’s shot took a deflection from a corner.
And it was a Potts free kick—somewhat harshly awarded against Rob Paling, that brought about the opener three minutes later, a lapse in concentration letting in Lewis to finish from close in.
But Rainworth were back on terms in the 15th minute, and what an impact it made for Goward. The former Glapwell defender, who had made one appearance for Rainworth at Selby Town two seasons earlier, put over a cross which Rob Murray managed to push away from the challenging Spargo. Goward immediately regain the ball out on the right and let fly with a thunderbolt that fairly rocketed into the net.
Although Rainworth were giving a good account of themselves against the leaders, Grantham were still seeing more of the ball, and Barcherini had to stretch to keep hold of Gio Carchedi’s accurate effort from the left, and when Cooksey made a sound challenge on Grimes who went down in the box, loud penalty appeals went unheeded.
Shaw showed his potential with a delightful through pass which almost set up Spargo, only for him to be denied a shot by Grant Brindley’s effective tackle in the 39th minute.
But the Wrens came under pressure two minutes later when another curling free kick from Potts was punched away by Barcherini, only to hit Cameron Fearon and go behind for a corner.
Five minutes into the restart Spargo had the ball in the Grantham net, arriving to sweep it home after a neat build-up between half time substitute Andy Toyne and Stephen Akers, only to see it ruled out by a linesman’s flag.
Barcherini smothered a low cross-shot from Grimes, and then after more effective play, this time by Danny Bacon and Spargo, Shaw saw his low 18-yard drive smothered by Murray.
Instead it was Grantham who moved ahead on the hour when Grimes’ high lob over Barcherini dropped into the net despite Paling’s best effort to get back and clear a wind-assisted effort from under the bar.
Grantham substitute Tony Battersby was booked for a blatant dive in the box as he sought unfairly to gain advantage in the 76th minute, and more penalty appeals, this time alleging hands by Kennedy, went unheeded two minutes later.
Gee gambled by bringing off Cooksey in the 85th minute to push an extra forward on in Simpson, and the extra attacking option almost paid off two minutes later, when fellow sub Matt Glass was sent down the right by Akers to put over a cross which was fractionally too high for Spargo to manage any direction on his header.
RAINWORTH: Barcherini, Fearon (Toyne ht), Goward, Camm, Kennedy, Cooksey (Simpson 85), Shaw (Glass 70), Bacon, Spargo, Akers, Paling. Subs not used: Adams, Carter.
GRANTHAM: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Brindley, S. Saunders, Watt, Lewis, Ball, Grimes (McGhee 90+1), B. Saunders, Carchedi (Battersby 70). Subs not used: Cann, Magee, Jacklin.
REFEREE: Nicholas Hopton of Derby.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Lee Cooksey; Grantham and overall—Lee Potts.