We can put away the Wembley suits for another year!!
The FA Cup is an unforgiving competition and when you get your chance you must grab it with both hands. Rainworth didn’t and when Dunkirk’s came along they did!
Rainworth owed their fans a performance tonight and for most of the first half they strived to give them one. In a game of contrasting styles, the only thing missing was a goal, an ingredient that was missing for the whole of the 90 minutes of normal time. Then just when it seemed the tie would be going to penalties, Rainworth missed a golden opportunity to take the lead. Shortly afterwards they were reduced to 10 men and as penalties seemed destined to decide the tie Dunkirk scored.
The early part of the first half was spent in the Rainworth half as Dunkirk’s fast breaking play, combined with a determination to get up field with speed was causing Rainworth some discomfort. It took Rainworth some time to get their passing game going and when they did it was Danny Buttle who started to cause problems for Dunkirk. In the 9th minute one such move saw Buttle’s cross find Jamie Clarke, whose goal-bound shot struck Jared Holmes. In the 18th minute yet another superb cross from Buttle found Clarke, this time his powerful header was well saved by Jake Want.
Dunkirk at this stage was limited to long balls up field, but Rainworth couldn’t capitalise on the chances they were creating. It has been well documented that goal-scoring in the Evo-Stik has not been Rainworth’s forte and so it was proving tonight. There was also some concern that the effort being put in may come back to haunt them as Dunkirk were still full of running as the whistle brought the half to an end. I thought Rainworth had shaded the half but with no goals for either side, the tie was still wide open.
As the second half started Rainworth had lost their fluency and some were looking heavy legged, Jason Bradley replaced Nathan Modest. The tie was evenly poised but the youthful running and enthusiasm of Dunkirk was giving concern. It was also noticeable that Dunkirk’s best defender at this point was the ‘off-side flag’. The feeling from both sets of fans was that the tie would be decided by a solitary goal, if not then penalties. Will Coutts had been a constant threat on Dunkirk’s right flank, with Kevin Hemagou providing an ideal foil in the middle.
By now both sides were fearful of making a mistake and the chances created, could be described as half-chances at best. Rainworth’s chances mainly came from Matt Varley’s long throws and Jason Bradley’s aerial prowess, whilst Dunkirk’s quick service from back to front always posed problems. The 90 minutes came to an end with neither side able to score and the tie was evenly balanced with the start of extra-time.
There were two events that summed up the course of the match as a contest, in the 97th minute a slick Rainworth move saw Clarke clear on goal, but with the best chance of the match he hit his shot wide. Four minutes later in an incident involving Bradley, the referee deemed it serious enough to show him a straight red. In all honesty I am unable to comment as it happened at the far side of the pitch and as always there were two points of view. So with the first period of extra-time coming to an end instead of Rainworth finding themselves in the lead, the score remained 0-0 and they had been reduced to ten men.
With eleven Rainworth were finding it hard, with ten it was probably going to be a rear guard action, with the hope of penalties being the best outcome. In actual fact it was Rainworth who nearly scored in the 116th minute, a commendable achievement considering their predicament.
Alas it wasn’t meant to be and Dunkirk went straight down the other end with arguably the best player on the pitch Coutts setting up Kione Gordon to score what was to be the only goal of the game.
Rainworth couldn’t complain they had their chance and couldn’t take it, but when it has been 179 minutes since you scored your only goal of the two games, you can have no complaints. I have heard a number of versions of what took place for the sending off, but as I didn’t get a good view, I would prefer not to comment. On the balance of play, Rainworth never really came to terms with the fast direct style of Dunkirk and as they took their chance, deserved to win.
In closing I’m sure everyone at Rainworth would join me in wishing Dunkirk all the best in the competition.
RAINWORTH: Martin; Hanson; Dudley; Lloyd; Varley; Saunders; Modest (Bradley 58); Holmes; Rickards; Clarke; Buttle. Subs (not used): Archer; Magee; Claxton; Cullingworth.
Referee: Alex Pashley of Chesterfield
Man of Match: Matt Varley