Depleted Wrens pay the penalty as drought continues
Evo-Stik League Division One South
Lincoln United 3 Rainworth MW 0
Report by Gordon Foster
RAINWORTH: Hales, Hollis, Carolan, Wilkinson, Draper, Paling, Naylor, Roberts, Mitchell, Lynam, Sweeney. Subs: Bainbridge, Clarke, Jones, Leah, Thomas.
Do not be fooled by the line-up printed above. This was not the side that took the field against Lincoln United at Ashby Avenue on Tuesday night, but was a complete side of unavailable players, through either injury, suspension or work commitments.
It is a squad which would at least stand comparison with the one listed at the end of this report, and if manager Rudy Funk had the chance to choose his 16 from those listed in both teams, then maybe the Wrens would not now be sliding alarmingly towards a battle against relegation.
But you can only go with who is available and, as it was, Rainworth suffered their sixth successive defeat (two of which, to be fair, were cup ties that went to extra time).
I could have said ‘slumped to…’ rather than ‘suffered…’, but that would be unfair on the side that took the field, because in most departments they matched Lincoln.
But they were undone by three second half goals, two of them from the penalty spot, before having Aaron Moxam harshly sent off by referee Phil Booker towards the end.
And Wrens fans behind the goal were adamant that Chris Hewitt’s 49th-minute effort had crossed the line before being blocked by home keeper Phil McGann when the scores were still level—although it should be said that there was no such protest by the players on the field.
It’s all grist to the mill for those who would say that nothing goes right for you when you are struggling, but the fact remains that the slump in results has to be turned around very quickly if the Wrens’ stay in the Evo-Stik League is to be more than just a year’s holiday.
Rainworth gave keeper Sam Dobbs his first league start, and included both Chris Hewitt and reserve player Sam Goodson in their starting line-up, while new boy Michael Vickers, a former Nottingham Forest reserve player who has been out of the country for a year, was among the substitutes.
The first half was a well-contested period with both sides creating but failing to put away their chances.
Despite so many absences Rainworth made a promising start, with Goodson twice going close in the fairly even first 10 minutes from approach play in which Dennis Simms’ skill and pace featured prominently.
At the other end Cameron Fearon’s well timed challenge ended the danger after two defenders left the ball for each other and Chris Funnell pounced.
Simms showed his paces again in the 20th minute with a sparkling run, only to fire straight at McGann from 25 yards.
The hard-working and inspirational Julian Topliss then ended a fine run by laying off to Hewitt, who pushed the ball too far forward and the chance was gone.
But Rainworth had an amazing escape in the 33rd minute. Dobbs slipped on the greasy surface while going for a back pass, and the ball went for a corner which Barry Alberry turned for a second flag kick. This was played deep to George Zuerner whose rifled shot cannoned off a defender into the path of Steve Melton. His effort rebounded off the far post to Funnell who scooped a great chance well over the bar.
Topliss aimed a 25-yarder just over the angle as the end to end contest continued, but only seconds later Dobbs had to leave his area and chest down as Zuerner looked to profit after outstripping the otherwise solid Alberry onto a through pass.
As half time approached both Topliss and Goodson had efforts blocked following a well-worked build up, but it was Dobbs who was the hero of the hour almost on half time, stretching up to cut out Scott Coupland’s attempted chip.
Rainworth were quickly out of the traps at the start of the second half, with Simms and Hewitt working well to set up Matt Baxter, whose shot struck Goodson and diverted comfortably towards McGann.
Fearon’s well-timed challenge on Coupland denied the United man a shot as he cut in from the left.
Then, four minutes in, McGann was very smartly across his line to black as Hewitt sought to put away Goodson’s far post cross, amid unsubstantiated claims from the fans that the ball had crossed the line.
Instead, it was Lincoln who broke the deadlock three minutes later, Funnell finding the net with a neat glancing header from a near post corner.
It was 2-0 on 62 minutes, when Coupland netted the first of his two spot kicks after being challenged from behind by last man Fearon who was lucky to escape without a card of any colour—it could well have been red.
Rainworth continued to beaver away but there looked no way back after this blow, and Coupland notched his second spot kick in the 79th minute. This time Sam Mullarkey had appeared to run into Fearon, but the Wrens defender was booked and Coupland hit his shot hard and low into the net.
Three minutes later Rainworth’s woe was complete, when Moxam, in trying to block a ball from Jack McGovern, was deemed by Mr Booker to have jumped in on the United player, and was shown an immediate red card.
Lincoln might have added a fourth when Dobbs miscued a clearance which hit Shaun Booth, who was unable to capitalise before the keeper recovered to palm the ball away, but that would have been harsh indeed on the depleted visitors.
LINCOLN UNITED: McGann, Fleming, Smith, McDaid, McGovern, Wright, Zuerner (Mullarkey 72), Melton, Wilkinson (Booth 73), Funnell, Coupland. Subs not used: Boyce, Bull, Turner.
RAINWORTH: Dobbs, Fearon, Jepson, Alberry, Charlesworth, Baxter, Hewitt, Goodson, Topliss, Simms (Vickers 75), Jackson (Moxam 67).
REFEREE: Philip Booker of Sheffield.
GOALS: Lincoln—Funnell 52; Coupland 62 pen, 79 pen.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Julian Topliss.