Rainworth Pay the Penalty!
The game changed on two refereeing decisions within the space of five minutes in the second half, both similar yet with different outcomes.
The first ended with a ‘Red card’ the second with ‘No card’ at all, yet both were deemed penalties, the first interpreted as the last man the second from behind by the keeper was not deemed worthy of any card.
Rainworth could have no argument with the results of both penalties, Athersley scored theirs whilst Rainworth missed their attempt. The choice of punishment however had a major influence on the final outcome of the game that up to that point had been in the balance.
The game kicked off on a surface that made any attempt to play passing football a lottery and so it proved.
Athersley adapted a more direct approach, whilst Rainworth kept to their passing game, the result was Atherton had the more attempts on goal, whilst Rainworth’s build up was more structured but lacked the finish.
Both sides had chances in a half were the pitch was the only winner and it appeared it would take a piece of good fortune rather than skill to break the deadlock.
The half ended with neither side getting on the scoresheet and with the pitch deteriorating by the minute a goalless draw seemed a distinct possibility.
The second half began just as frenetic as the first and in the opening minutes Athersley almost took the lead when a cross grazed the crossbar and out to safety.
Rainworth countered having their best spell of the game and leading scorer Liam Morris had three opportunities to score but failed to convert any.
The game appeared to be drifting towards a draw, when in the 58th minute Joe Thornton bore down on goal, Matt Plant’s tackle looked as if it had taken the ball, but the referee thought differently.
He awarded a penalty and then brandished a yellow card, which at the time looked harsh. It looked even more controversial when it became apparent that the yellow card was for Connor Smythe’s reaction and not Plant’s tackle. He was given a straight red and it left Rainworth with a mountain to climb,with regular centre-back Jack Andrews already missing through injury, Plant’s dismissal left Rainworth without a physical presence at the back.
Joe Thornton took the penalty and gave Sam Leigh no chance.
To Rainworth’s credit they continued to battle and their reward came when in the 65th minute Morris was brought down from behind by the keeper. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, but to Rainworth’s amazement he kept his cards in his pocket.
To add to Rainworth’s frustrations, Morris’s penalty was hit straight at the keeper and it deflected to safety.
Still Rainworth pressed and both Morris and Matt Sykes had efforts blocked by the home side.
Shortly after this Athersley took advantage as ten man Rainworth began to tire and two goals in quick succession by Danny Cawley and Thornton effectively put the game out of reach.
There was still time for Connor Smythe to pull one back for Rainworth with a far post header in the 83rd minute.
It was Athersley who completed the scoring when Thornton completed his hat-trick in the 88th minute with an assured finish into the top corner.
In the final minute of the game Rainworth almost got a second when Sykes’s effort was parried by the keeper and Morris’s follow up hit the post.
Although today’s game was effectively determined by a refereeing decision, there are more fundamental problems with Rainworth’s style of play at this moment in time.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Leigh; Edridge; Smythe; Barnett (Dockwray); Plant; Hanson; York (Clarke); Thompson; Morris; Theakstone (Brewin); Sykes. Sub (not used): C.Widdowson.
Man of the match: Jordan Edridge