End of home drought brings first league double
CRAIG Mitchell’s brace broke Rainworth’s home goals duck at the fourth attempt to complete a league double over Leek Town writes Gordon Foster.
It was a result which brought home how far Rainworth have come in recent seasons, for it is not so many years since, while the Wrens were still playing Notts Alliance football, Leek were a Conference club.
Mitchell fired his side into a 22nd minute lead, and after Ashley Miller had equalised six minutes into the restart Mitchell notched what proved to be the winner 10 minutes later.
After the horrors of Tuesday night’s performance against Carlton in the President’s Cup this was a different Rainworth, and they could and should have won by a bigger margin.
Manager Rudy Funk rang the changes, recalling a number of senior players, while Danny Naylor and Ant Lynam were back from injury.
Lynam, though, lasted just four minutes before suffering another ankle injury which ended his afternoon’s work early.
Despite this, the Wrens turned on some excellent football at times to the delight of most in what was a disappointing attendance of 120.
Lynam’s fourth minute injury was the first incident of note, the striker appearing to fall awkwardly after going up for the ball, and Julian Topliss made an earlier than expected entry from the bench.
And, after a tight opening 15 minutes it was Topliss who swivelled on the edge of the box and sent a first time shot whizzing just wide.
Leek, who included former Stags favourite Wayne Corden on the left of midfield, might have had a sniff of a chance shortly afterwards from a direct free kick from the left, but Carl Allen placed his shot straight at Mark Hales.
Rainworth took a deserved lead in the 27th minute. Topliss burst along the right, evading the attentions of his marker, and then intelligently squared the ball to Mitchell who was lurking just outside the six yard box. The striker made no mistake, poking the ball home past keeper Steve Hodgson.
The home side suffered a spot of trouble on the half-hour. Hales did not manage enough purchase on an attempted punch clear, but recovered to block Ashley Miller’s angled follow-up at the expense of a corner which Hales then collected comfortably.
Rainworth immediately countered and when the ball fell to Matt Baxter in the area Hodgson was in the right place to be able to parry the effort for another corner, from which Matt Draper glanced a header wide of the far post.
Hodgson twice denied the industrious Mitchell in one-on-ones, while in between at the other end Wayne Johnson was too high from his header off a corner.
Rainworth were playing some of their best football of the season, and when Brendan Sweeney, Jermain Hollis and Topliss combined on the right to excellent effect a minute before half time Ryan Carolan’s first time shot from Topliss’ cross flashed narrowly wide.
But Matt Johnson almost had the last word of the half with a cross shot which beat the stretching Hales but also the far post.
Mitchell, who could have had a barrow load of goals after getting into some good positions, headed wide from Hollis’ surging run and cross five minutes into the restart, and the miss was punished at the other end a minute later when Leek equalised. The ball was worked in from the left and Ash Milller created himself a modicum of space in the area to beat the stranded Hales with the deftest of chip shots.
Once again Hodgson thwarted Mitchell before, on the hour mark, Hales’ punch onto a Leek corner fell to Rob Hawthorne, but Matt Draper did well to block the ensuing effort.
The ball was then cleared out of the Rainworth area along the left, and when it was played into the Leek area an attempted clearing header fell to Mitchell, who clinically rounded Hodgson and slotted into the empty net.
Hodgson was again called upon to save from Topliss and then, after Topliss, Sweeney and Danny Naylor had all had shots blocked, Rainworth were awarded a free kick for a trip on Topliss just outside the area, but Mitchell’s effort was straight into the defensive wall.
Leek immediately countered with three on two, but Draper was on hand to break up the attack with a strong challenge.
Leek thought they had equalised in the 85th minute when Ash Miller’s pull back from the by-line caused a moment of panic. In the scramble the ball looked on its way into the net until Hales dived backwards to claw the ball off the line.
That was Leek’s last chance as Rainworth dominated the final minutes, during which Topliss saw another shot saved by Hodgson who then thwarted Mitchell in a one on one, before Mitchell put the last half chance wide of the far post with Topliss probably better placed.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Hollis, Carolan, Alberry, Charlesworth, Draper, Baxter, Naylor (Hunt 82), Mitchell, Lynam (Topliss 4), Sweeney. Subs not used: Moxam, Jones, Dobbs.
LEEK: Hodgson, M. Johnson, Allen (Ashman 77), A. Taylor, W. Johnson (P. Taylor ht), Hawthorne (Cope 77), France, C. Miller, Hancock, A. Miller, Corden. Subs not used: Rutter, P. Johnson.
REFEREE: Robert Ellis of Coventry.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Craig Mitchell.