It's a steal at Steels
RESILIENT Rainworth survived Stocksbridge’s second half onslaught to achieve back to back wins for the first time this season.
The Wrens may well be inclined to paraphrase the old song and adopt ‘Tuesday night is our delight’ as their new theme song, for they have only once lost a Tuesday evening game since the start of the season, that being the Doodson Cup tie at Loughborough in what was previous manager Dean Short’s last game in charge.
And, as with the current managers’ first success on a Tuesday night at Brigg, they brought back the three points from the Look Local Stadium despite being hit by injuries and unavailabilities, to move up to 14th place in the Division One South table.
Alex Ford provided Rainworth with an interval lead but it was a backs to the wall show after the break, when every member of the side showed the same great character that they had demonstrated against Market Drayton four days earlier.
One felt that in the face of wave upon wave of Stocksbridge attacks a goal had to come, but when it finally did, in the 81st minute, it was from a by now rare Rainworth counter-attack with Tris Whitman providing the finish.
And, to rub salt in the Steelers’ wounds, when they did eventually get the ball into Liam Roberts’ net seven minutes later it was ruled out for offside.
Roberts will have impressed his watching goalkeeping coach from Walsall with a flying punch clear from a third minute Steels foray as the Wrens were forced onto the back foot in the early stages.
It was not until the 10th minute that Rainworth brought Liam Flynn into action, the home keeper punching away Kieran Coupe’s on-target 20-yard effort and then turning Whitman’s effort over the bar.
That was the sign for Welfare to come more into the picture, and Brad McGowan’s long angled drive whistled just past the far post. But there was a 19th minute scare for the visitors when Roberts allowed the ball to squirm through his hands for a corner, which flew across the face of goal needing but lacking only a touch.
Harrison Biggins raised home hopes with an eye-catching run down the right before cutting in but Roberts was well placed to deal comfortably with the shot before, as the end to end action continued, Rainworth broke the deadlock in the 34th minute.
Theo Brown picked out Jack Andrews on the left and his long angled cross was measured just right for Ford to tuck away at the far post.
Roberts denied Steels an almost immediate leveller when he tipped Chris White’s fierce, rising 30-yarder over the angle, but Rainworth had a glorious chance to go in 2-0 up as the half entered added time, when Ford astutely played strike partner Grant Ryan in on goal, only to see him try to place his finish wide of Flynn who got down to smother the ball.
Stocksbridge announced their second half intentions from the off, and soon had the Wrens on the back foot with some lovely football on their impressive bowling green of a pitch, but the Rainworth defence, inspired by some great work by magnificent young centre back Dean Freeman in particular, showed all the steel that belonged in the hosts’ name, and handled everything the home side could throw at them.
Indeed, so effective was the shut-out in the face of the onslaught, that it was Rainworth who, on their rare counter-attacks, actually came up with the better scoring chances, and McGowan was unlucky, nine minutes in, when he fed Brown on the right, and ran in to meet the return only to head wide.
Roberts rescued a dangerous situation from a home corner when he smothered the ball on the line, and Lee Garside was only a whisker off target with a 35-yard free kick.
Ford suffered a groin injury and was replaced by Danny Williams just after the hour, and within two minutes the former Teversal youngster lined up a chance with a free kick from just outside the box, but curled it too high. This was a brief purple patch for Rainworth, and Flynn had to be alert to punch the ball off the head of Whitman following Freeman’s accurate long pass.
Freeman then halted Nathan Joynes with a wonderful challenge and Roberts saved well from Lee Garside as Steels regained the initiative.
Stocksbridge were cursing their luck in the 77th minute when Biggins’ low free kick hit the foot of the post, but the venom of those curses went up another notch four minutes later when Ryan got clear to the by-line at the other end, centred, and there was Whitman to nod in a smash and grab second Wrens goal.
After that Stocksbridge threw the kitchen sink at the Wrens defence. Brown was replaced by Matty Jones after sustaining a knee injury, then in the 88th minute Roberts saved well from Cecil Nyoni following a long free kick, and Joynes stuck the rebound into the net, but if Steels’ hoped for a grandstand finish, including four added minutes, they were frustrated by an offside flag, and Rainworth were home and dry.
STOCKSBRIDGE: Flynn, Scully, Schofield, Biggins, Laight, B. Turner, S. Turner, Nyoni, Joynes, Garside, White. Subs not used: Stewart, Lever, Cadzow, Wilson, S. Andrews.
RAINWORTH: Roberts, Coupe, J. Andrews, Hannigan, Freeman, McGowan, T. Brown (Jones 86), Mitchell, Ford (Williams 61), Ryan, Whitman. Sub not used: Gregory.
REFEREE: Mark Powell.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dean Freeman.