END-OF-SEASON lethargy came early to Kirklington Road on Saturday as Rainworth and Brigg just about went through the motions for a goalless draw.
A flat performance by both sides saw neither keeper unduly extended and the nearest anyone came to a goal was in the 79th minute when Ryan Goward cleared off the Wrens’ line from a Brigg corner.
Three minutes earlier Goward had stretched Zebras keeper Tom Woodhead with a rising cross-shot which had the Brigg custodian stretching up to tip over his bar.
Cameron Fearon had earlier gone close in the opening seconds after the interval, clipping the bar.
Lee Cooksey was a tower of strength at the heart of the Wrens defence, and was as more often than not the rock on which the Zebras foundered despite enterprising work by skipper Liam Davis and Sam Mulready.
With a heavy injury and unavailability list Wrens manager Kev Gee had little room for manoeuvre in his team selection.
Striker Danny Simpson made his first start of the season in a front three which also saw Danny Bacon pushed forward from midfield to what is traditionally his more orthodox position, the pair lining up alongside Ben Spargo.
Meanwhile, with Alessandro Barcherini unavailable, long-serving Mark Hales was called up for his first outing of the season, and he will have been pleased to keep a clean sheet.
The kick-off was delayed by 18 minutes with several of the visitors’ contingent caught up by major road works at the junction of the M18 and A1(M) in South Yorkshire.
And when play did start Rainworth had an early worry with Cameron Fearon limping heavily after just four minutes, although he was eventually able to run it off.
The first ghost of an opportunity went Brigg’s way in the eighth minute, when Steve Kennedy miscued a clearance to Davis, who laid off to Darren Mansaram, only for the striker to be quickly closed down.
A minute later Bacon won possession well to send Curtis Shaw through, only for the ex-Mansfield midfielder to push his final pass just too far ahead of Spargo.
Back at the other end a rare error by Mark Camm, who miskicked altogether, let in Mulready, whose goalward advance was effectively halted by Cooksey and the recovering Camm.
And Cooksey was quick to block again after Greg Archer found a way around the back of Goward.
Rainworth had a let-off in the 29th minute when Steve Owens pounced on Kennedy’s headed clearance and crossed low into the six-yard box, where Mansaram’s legs were too far over the ball.
Simpson’s body was in the way of a Bacon bullet a minute later following some effective play by Fearon, and Bacon was unlucky again as he rose at the back post to meet Goward’s floated free kick but couldn’t quite meet the occasion.
Hales was well behind a crisp Owens effort as Brigg added half a yard of pace, and then Cooksey and Shaw combined well to deny Davis from Mulready’s astute flick on.
But Rainworth had the last word of the half, Simpson’s cross falling invitingly for the well-placed Shaw who swung a leg at it but completely mis-kicked.
They also had the first word of the second period when, just 25 seconds in, Fearon headed Shaw’s left wing cross against and over the bar with Brigg almost caught cold.
By and large, though, as the half went on, both sides were guilty of giving away possession too readily and moves were breaking down at the final pass.
Excellent referee Andrew Park was rightly unimpressed when Wrens substitute Matt Glass fell under Oliver Fisher’s challenge on the edge of the area. And when, two minutes later, Glass threaded a neat pass through, Fearon was crowded out as he ran into the box.
Goward’s rising cross shot from the left was tipped over the bar by Wodhead who then punched the ensuing corner clear, and three minutes later it was Goward popping up to clear off the line at the far post from a corner.
Romaine Graham showed no little skill for a man of his lofty build with a determined run out of defence to set Glass free, but Glass’s hurried shot was too high with Liam Theakstone lurking on the right—Glass probably fearing that the youngster had strayed marginally offside.
The final word went to Brigg, right on the final whistle, with Mulready’s fast ground shot straight into the arms of Hales.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Fearon, Goward, Camm, Kennedy, Cooksey, Graham, Bacon, Spargo (Theakstone 74), Shaw (Glass 61), Simpson (O’Rafferty 76). Sub not used: Paling.
BRIGG: Woodhead, Fisher, Heward, Field, Gee, Archer, Davis, Mulready, Mansaram (Mellin 74), Owens (Chapman 79), Dickman. Subs not used: Cannon, Musselwhite.
REFEREE: Andrew Park of Lincoln.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Cooksey.