Evo-Stik League Div I South: Rainworth 0 Newcastle Town 2
Rainworth lose first home game in the Evo Stick League
Evo-Stik League Div I South: Rainworth 0 Newcastle Town 2—by Gordon Foster
NEWCASTLE Town were Rainworth’s party poopers in Tuesday night’s historic first ever home Evo-Stik League game.
But, although the experience-packed visitors were clearly the better side on the night, manager Rudy Funk remained upbeat afterwards, and re-iterated that his troops would still do well.
“Newcastle were a very good side and deserved their win, but we effectively restricted them to two chances, and they took them both,” he said.
It was billed as a showdown between two newly promoted sides, but the Potteries outfit, who blitzed the North West Counties League last season, have started this campaign where they left off the last and, on this showing, will expect to be among the pace setters in Division One South.
It was a touch of deja-vu, though, for Rainworth, who crashed 4-0 in their opening NCEL Premier Division game this time last season, but still went on to gain promotion in the end.
Jordan Johnson fired Castle into a 25th minute lead, and substitute Lassana Sidibe capitalised to put the outcome beyond the Wrens while they were temporarily down to 10 men in the 86th minute, Cameron Fearon having gone off injured and sub Michael Hewitt having not yet entered the fray.
Despite having a big squad, a combination of circumstances meant that Funk had to name four defenders and a goalkeeper on his bench, giving him few options to change things when Newcastle increasingly bossed the midfield as the game ran its course.
There was a scare for Rainworth in only the second minute when skipper Lee Wilkinson sliced his attempted clearance from the first corner of the match and was relieved to see Mark Hales gather it on the line.
But seconds later Ant Lynam might have given Rainworth the lead when, put through by Brendan Sweeney’s astute through pass down the right, he brought an excellent parry out of Newcastle keeper Danny Read.
And in fairly even opening exchanges Lynam’s looping eighth-minute header onto Sweeney’s free kick dropped over Read’s bar.
But Newcastle were already beginning to show their paces, and it needed a solid clearance from Matt Draper after the diving Hales managed to parry a dangerous cross from Alan Nadgington.
The visitors were even more unlucky in the 12th minute when Hales was deceived into thinking that Matt Bell’s curling 22-yard effort was going wide, and was grateful to see it come back off the post.
Rainworth responded with impressive new boy, left wing back Ryan Carolan’s lobbed centre finding Lynam, whose volley Read brilliantly touched aside for a corner.
However, the new boy was let down to some extent with his enterprising work too often wasted by his colleagues not making the most of it.
Another Lynam effort went inches wide, before Town began to up the pace, and the visitors broke the deadlock in the 25th minute. A corner was only half cleared and Johnson’s 22-yard half-volley flew through a crowded area and inside the post with Hales seemingly unsighted until the last moment.
Bookings for Newcastle’s Michael Morton and Wrens’ Wilkinson then marked a short feisty spell.
At the end of the half Hales had to fall on the ball on his line when Wilkinson inadvertently almost steered it into his own net, but the keeper made an uncharacteristic error on 42, calling, coming for and missing the ball to let in Nadgington, who was denied by Draper’s well timed challenge.
However, Rainworth almost had the last word of the half with Lynam’s visionary pass sending Danny Naylor running in on goal, only to lose the race with Read who was off his line in a flash to clear.
It had been an entertaining first half for the 128 spectators, but the second half did not live up to it.
And although Newcastle won an early corner the second period took some time to get going.
Naylor was fortunate to stay on the field, though, after being shown yellow by excellent referee Martin Chester for a high challenge on danger man Johnson, and then being spoken to for a second foul just two minutes later.
And Mr Chester himself drew appreciative applause from the crowd when he had a sharp word with Town’s aptly named Michael Douglas for his over-the-top play-acting, following a minor foul by Fearon, who had also been booked moments earlier.
Karl Espley did well to turn Carolan’s dangerous centre for a corner ahead of the lurking Chris Hewitt in the 57th minute, while a minute later at the other end Wilkinson and Draper combined to tidy up as Nadgington threatened again.
However, the contest had gone off the boil somewhat until the final 10 minutes. Then Hales had to stretch up to touch away a corner in the 84th minute, but in so doing he collided with Fearon who appeared to fall awkwardly and had to leave the field for attention.
The badly limping defender was unable to resume, but before he was replaced Newcastle made sure of the points, substitute Sidibe finding too much space in what would have been Fearon’s territory, to put away a cross from the right more or less unchallenged.
And Rainworth were denied even a consolation goal in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time. Sweeney played a quick, intelligent free kick to Lynam, who was again denied by Read’s speed off the line.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Fearon (M. Hewitt 87), Carolan, Wilkinson, Charlesworth, Draper, Topliss, Naylor, C. Hewitt, Lynam, Sweeney. Subs not used: Hunt, Jones, Jackson, Dobbs.
NEWCASTLE: Read, Espley, Sheldon (James ht), Donnelly, Dicker, Douglas, Johnson, Morton (Skelton 88), Bodrys, Nadgington (Sidibe 69), Bell. Subs not used: Willis, Cliffe.
REFEREE: Martin Chester of Lincoln.
GOALS: Newcastle—Johnson 25; Sidibe 86.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Carolan.