Wrens avoid Senior Cup banana skin
RING-RUSTY Rainworth avoided slipping on a potential Notts Senior Cup banana skin to edge into the quarter-final at Greenwich Avenue last night.
As a step 7 club, Central Midlands South hosts Basford United may ply their trade three steps below the Wrens, but the reality is that the difference is much less than that, with the Yellows favourites for their league title after losing only two previous matches all season—and one of those a League Cup tie—while Rainworth are involved in a relegation battle.
So it is not impossible that by the end of the season there could be only one level of difference in status.
Add to that the fact that Basford’s record this season gives them a winning mentality, and one had the recipe for a cup giant killing.
With only 61 seconds of the tie gone the ingredients were already in the pot as the home side grabbed the early lead they wanted through Courtney Hastings.
But the game turned on its head when Stephen Akers and a Ben Spargo penalty within two minutes of each other put the Wrens into the driving seat with still only 12 minutes on the clock.
Andy Toyne’s 40th-minute strike gave Rainworth a two-goal cushion to take into the interval, but although Basford hit back strongly in the second half there was no more scoring until stoppage time when Martin Holt unleashed a 40-yarder which dropped over the line off the underside of Alessandro Barcherini’s bar.
Both sides had their eyes on lifting the famous old trophy for the first time since the 1980s when they were rivals in the then very strong Notts Alliance. And while in the end it was Rainworth who edged through, Basford were left to concentrate on the greater priority of their promotion push to the East Midlands Counties League, with ground improvements under way so that they can make the step up, should they take their league title.
But they were not to be deflected from their bid for cup glory too, and they shocked the visiting fans by taking the lead just as the stopwatch ticked into the second minute. Playing uphill, they opened up a hesitant defence and, despite what looked a poor cross, hot property Hastings provided a clinical finish from just inside the area, giving Barcherini no chance.
Stung into responsive action, Rainworth immediately attacked down the right, but Cameron Fearon’s cross whipped through the six-yard box without finding a finishing boot, and then Toyne’s through pass was just too far ahead of Spargo who lost the race for possession with home keeper Andy Fretwell.
But Rainworth were back on terms in the 10th minute, with another delightful through pass, this time by Danny Bacon, which picked out Akers in the inside right position to finish well.
Two minutes later Spargo, chasing Tommy Hannigan’s ball over the top in the home area, was brought down from behind, and he got up to slot the perfect penalty and put the visitors ahead.
For most of the remainder of the first half the gap in league status told, and although it certainly wasn’t all one way traffic, the rather square home defence found the pace and skill of Akers particularly difficult to contain.
Fretwell did well in the 23rd minute to tip away a fierce cross-shot from the Wrens’ livewire, and fortunately for the keeper no-one was able to capitalise on the resulting loose ball.
Barcherini needed to be off his line very quickly to thwart Hastings after good work by Tian Walton for Basford, but when play switched to the other end again in the 39th minute, Fretwell stood up well to cut out a dangerous cross-cum shot from Fearon cutting in from the right.
A minute later, though, the home keeper was picking the ball out of his net when Toyne received the ball in the box and put away a close range shot on the turn.
Jarrod Westcarr almost immediately tried to cut the deficit but saw his finish deflected behind for the only corner of the first half—a half which ended with Spargo winning possession but aiming his shot too high.
Rainworth continued to play some enterprising stuff as the second half got under way. But although they had a possible case for a penalty turned down when Spargo went down in the box in the 54th minute under a challenge, the home side rode out the pressure and began to take control themselves for the final half-hour as the Wrens seemed to lose their way somewhat and became increasingly disjointed.
Barcherini punched away a curling free kick from Walton in the 62nd minute, and as the free kick against count grew, Walton aimed one wide from a good position on the edge of the box.
Wrens skipper Steve Kennedy popped up to head off the line at the near post from the second of two quick corners won by United in the 74th minute.
Conversely it was not until 10 minutes later that Rainworth won their first corner when a Spargo effort deflected off the line when the striker was set up by persistent play from substitute Romaine Graham.
A low free kick from Mark Camm met a similar fate in the 87th minute, before Basford got the goal their second half performance warranted with Holt’s spectacular long range shot off the underside of the bar, but it was too late to make any difference on the destiny of the quarter-final place.
BASFORD: Fretwell, T. Richardson (Hooton ht), J. Richardson, Willows, Moore, Holt, Walton, Jones (Royes 77), Hastings, C. Westcarr (Todd 77), J. Westcarr.
RAINWORTH: Barcherini, Fearon, Carter, Camm, Kennedy, Hannigan, Cooksey (Graham 69), Bacon, Spargo, Akers, Toyne (Simpson 69). Sub not used: kING, o’Raffery, Theakstone.
REFEREE: Eddie Pidduck.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Stephen Akers.