Wrens end losing run at third-placed Zebras
Evo-Stik League Division I South
Brigg Town 1 Rainworth MW 1
Report by Gordon Foster
(Billy Millar's reaction and pics by Derek Bentley to follow)
IF Rainworth’s players, to a man, want Billy Millar to step into the managerial hot seat vacated last week by Rudy Funk, then they will need to produce more of the spirit they displayed at The Hawthorns on Saturday in his cause.
Third-placed Brigg Town had beaten the Wrens 6-2 at the same venue in the FA Cup earlier in the season.
But after the disappointing and morale-sapping run of nine straight defeats this match, Millar’s first in charge as he seeks to secure the permanent post for himself, gave the Wrens’ following renewed heart and hope.
Yes, they rode their luck, incredibly so at times, indeed Brigg hit Mark Hales’ goal frame several times, but how that good fortune was deserved by a Rainworth side that was prepared to battle for everything, and supplemented their heart with some neat football on the floor at times.
The icing on the cake would have been a smash and grab win, for smash and grab is what it would have been, but after all the ill fortune that has dogged Rainworth this season, a redress of the balance was well overdue.
This, by both sides, was entertainment of the first order, which had the fans on the edge of their seats, for Rainworth also had their chances, and even when the Zebras took a 15th minute lead the heads which would a couple of weeks ago have dropped were replaced by a re-galvanised outfit with purpose and desire.
And their reward was a well-taken equaliser by Craig Mitchell five minutes before the break.
Rainworth brought in Ian Clarke for the first time this season following his long injury lay-off. Clarke came through virtually a full 90 minutes until being withdrawn in stoppage time.
Meanwhile, Craig Charlesworth’s early withdrawal through injury necessitated a switch to 4-4-2 after which Rainworth showed that they could play the ball around well.
In an all-round heart warming overall team performance, Goalkeeper Mark Hales, recalled to the starting line-up, deserved his personal slice of good fortune for some superb saves, while James Jepson looked the part in both his starting midfield berth and then at left back, to where he was switched following Charlesworth’s injury.
Matt Baxter, recalled to the side, and Clarke beavered away and showed some excellent touches in midfield, as did the industrious Rob Paling after his introduction, while Mitchell and Ant Lynam worked hard to prise open an efficient Brigg rearguard, and Jermain Hollis and Cameron Fearon worked the flanks well.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer though, and Brigg were without a doubt the more accomplished side, but it was Rainworth who had the first goal attempt in the fifth minute, to no avail as the offside flag was raised as Baxter brought an excellent save out of ex-Everton keeper Andy Pettinger.
Brigg responded by winning three corners in succession and began to put in some dangerous crosses—and they took a 15th minute lead with Tommy Spall’s deftest of 25-yard shots into the top corner of Mark Hales’ net, beyond the reach of the Wrens’ keeper.
It should have been 2-0 just seconds later, Paul Grimes scorning a gilt-edged chance from livewire Danny Buttle’s run and cross.
Charlesworth limped off in the 19th minute to be replaced by Paling, causing a re-organisation for Rainworth, but the double setback seemed only to spur them on.
And the Wrens had what appeared confident penalty appeals rejected six minutes later when Jepson appeared to have been brought down in the Brigg area.
The game had developed into a thoroughly entertaining end-to-end contest, with Pettinger just winning a race for the ball with Mitchell to hack away, and opposite number Hales first saving Alan Lamb’s crisp shot on the turn and then turning Sapll’s point blank header over the bar at full stretch.
Hales was beaten, though, in the 37th minute when, with Rainworth pushed up for a set piece, Buttle broke away along the left, only to see his angled shot come back off the inside of the far post.
Three minutes later Rainworth were back on terms when Mitchell was played in by Baxter’s astute through pass to draw and beat Pettinger with a panache not seen from the Wrens’ forwards for some time.
As the second half got under way Grimes could not quite manage a telling touch onto Ollie Chappell’s hanging centre, while for Rainworth Mitchell had a shot saved.
Lee-Roy Cochrane picked up a booking for a cynical foul on Lynam just outside the area on the left,but Lynam went for pace from the free kick and blasted wide.
The crossbar came to Rainworth’s rescue twice over, with first Daniel Barrett’s long, angled free kick clipping the top of the bar, and then Spall’s flying header coming back off its face for Jepson to get away in an unorthodox fashion when the ball hit him on his nose.
Hales pulled off another superb blocking save in the 73rd minute, spreading himself to deny Spall as the tempo was raised with both sides going for a winner.
Pettinger twice responded in kind, when Lynam must have thought he had won it for Rainworth, and Clarke’s follow-up was desperately hacked for a corner, and then parrying another Lynam effort over his bar followingmore eye-catching work from Paling.
But it was Rainworth who were the happier at the end of four added minutes, with their first league point since September.
BRIGG: Pettinger, Spall, Barrett, Bowsley, Hellewell, Cochrane, Chappell, Lamb (Paczkowski 67), Grimes, Raworth, Buttle. Subs not used: Jacklin, West, Oates, Steele.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Fearon, Hollis, Alberry, Charlesworth (Paling 19), Draper, Baxter, Clarke (Jackson 90+1), Mitchell, Lynam (Topliss 84), Jepson.
REFEREE: Deaan Appleby of Bourne.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Hales.