Dominant Rainworth almost left to rue missed opportunities.
A first half to savour the only blemish the missed chances.
In today’s Northern Counties East Premier Division clash at home to Athersley Recreation, Rainworth gave a dominant first half performance and although they led by two goals it should have been much more. In the end they were left to battle in an increasingly physical encounter to retain their two goal margin of victory.
Rainworth fielded two debutants in Connor Smythe and Matthew Thompson signed midweek from Worksop Town FC and Ollerton Town respectively.
The early Rainworth dominance was the prelude to a half that Athersley had barely any chances and Rainworth could and should have been out of sight.
As early as the 3rd minute Liam Theakstone almost opened the scoring, but his effort lacked power and was easily saved by Rich Watson.
The next opportunity came in the 8th minute as Sam Dockwray fed Matthew Sykes and this time Watson was grateful to regather after failing to hold the initial shot.
Then it was Dockwray’s turn but his goal bound effort was deflected for a corner.
Watson once again came to Athersley’s rescue after good build up play and Dockwray must have wondered just what he had to do to score.
At this point it was looking like the ‘Dockwray ‘show as he once again was thwarted by Watson.
In the 17th minute he then turned provider with a great ball to Liam Theakstone and as Watson advanced, he was unlucky to see his chip fall agonisingly wide of the far upright.
A minute later and Athersley had their only threat of a one-sided half as Joe Oliver broke, but Smythe was on hand to block his effort.
Still it was all Rainworth as Sykes’s shot was parried by Watson and Liam Morris reacted quickest only to be flagged for offside.
Now it was Theakstone’s turn to threaten but his shot on the break found the side netting. Rainworth were dominant in all areas and the only thing missing was a goal.
The pressure was unrelenting as Theakstone found Sykes and Watson’s outstretched leg somehow prevented a score. Then Dockwray heads down for Sykes and his driven effort just clears the crossbar with Watson well beaten.
As Dockwray broke clear his chip was somehow touched by Watson’s finger tips and just past the upright for yet another corner.
If this had been a boxing match the referee would have stopped the contest long ago such was the beating Athersley were taking.
Unfortunately for Rainworth football is about goals and despite their dominance they still had nothing to show for their efforts.
Yet another great move saw Sykes’s cross blocked by Ryan White at the expense of a corner. Just when it looked Athersley would survive Matt Plant rose above everyone to head home Thompson’s corner much to the home crowd’s relief.
It had taken 38 minutes to break the deadlock it only took a further four to increase it as Sykes’s 20 yard free kick gave Watson no chance.
Rainworth still hadn’t finished and in the final minutes Thompson’s flick was put just over by Morris and Dockwray was once more thwarted by Watson.
At the half-time whistle amazingly Rainworth were only leading by two goals in a display that deserved much more.
Rainworth are notoriously slow at engaging in the opening minutes of second half’s having conceded in a number of matches already this season. Today nearly joined that list when in the 49th minute McCauley Shillito’s effort went the wrong side of the upright.
Then in the 52nd minute a piece of pure theatre as the linesman flags for an Athersley offence and Gareth Campion picks up the ball.
The referee immediately points to the spot for a penalty, but after consulting the linesman awards Rainworth a free-kick. He also showed a yellow card to Shillito for his part in the incident.
Rainworth regained some composure and Athersley were relieved only to concede a corner as Ricky Hanson and Morris combine.
Athersley were playing a more physical game and it had Rainworth struggling and in the 57th a piece of poor defending allowed a cross to find Oliver and made no mistake from six yards.
In truth it had been the first real chance of the match for Athersley, but Rainworth had only themselves to blame because they were playing as if still in the changing rooms.
The goal seemed to focus Rainworth minds and shortly afterwards a deft Morris flick almost scores but it is cleared off the line.
Athersley weren’t so fortunate in the 66th minute as Thompson found Sykes and from a narrow angle he drilled his shot into the far corner for the third goal.
The 71st minute saw Theakstone given a yellow card for pulling back an opponent.
The 79th minute saw Dockwray find Hanson with a peach of a pass and the cross almost ends up in the net.
Athersley still had their moments and when the ball bounced dangerously in the penalty area Smythe was on hand to clear at the expense of a corner.
The 82nd minute saw Gareth Campion get a yellow card again for tugging at an opponent.
Rainworth substituted Ben Bowring for Liam Theakstone in the final minute and Athersley were happy to concede a corner as yet another Sykes effort flew goalwards.
At the final whistle Rainworth were deserved victors, but after a first half of complete dominance were made to battle in the second.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Burrows; Hanson; Smythe; Andrews; Plant; Campion; Thompson; Dockwray; Theakstone (Bowring); Morris; Sykes. Subs (not used): Pereira; Williams; Mitchell.
Referee: Mark Tinsley
Man of the match: Matthew Sykes