Depleted Wrens brought back to earth
Evo-Stik League Division I South
Sutton Coldfield Town 5 Rainworth MW 1
Report by Gordon Foster
EVERYTHING that had gone so right for Rainworth at Sheffield two days earlier went so badly wrong on Monday night in the first of two visits to Coles Lane in six days.
Observing ground sharers Romulus must have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of the Wrens’ return to the West Midlands after watching their landlords Sutton Coldfield Town take them apart at will.
And, had it not been for a superlative display by goalkeeper and skipper Mark Hales, Rainworth could well have conceded double figures.
Mark Bellingham’s hat-trick led the way for the Royals who effectively had the match won inside the first five minutes with two quickfire goals.
Bellingham struck in the second minute and Craig Marshall in the fifth to leave Rainworth with a mountain to climb.
The Wrens, for some reason wearing unfamiliar shirt numbers, then held out until just after the half-hour when Bellingham notched his second, and it grew worse four minutes later when Cameron Fearon was sent off for a second yellow card.
Rainworth did improve after the interval and began to play with some spirit, and far and away their best out field player on the night, Ryan Carolan, pulled a goal back in the 61st minute when keeper Lee Clark could only parry Ant Lynam’s driven 30-yard free kick.
But other than that Clark had an easy evening, and three minutes later Harry Harris restored the Royals’ three goal advantage, before Bellingham completed the rout with his hat trick goal in the 72nd minute.
Saturday’s win had come at a high price with injuries to key players Mark Camm and Ian Clarke, both of whom had played a major role in the Wrens’ recent recovery, and manager Billy Millar was left with an even more threadbare squad. Matt Baxter dropped back to fill Camm’s sweeping role, while Barry Alberry was pushing up into midfield, Craig Charlesworth being restored to the side and battling manfully for 64 minutes despite clearly not having recovered from a bout of flu which had kept him sidelined on Saturday.
Meanwhile reserves Danny McLane and Luke Thomas plus assistant manager Lee Wilkinson were named as substitutes alongside Lewis Jackson.
It was evident inside the first few minutes that the adjustments were not going to work. Inside the second minute Charlesworth conceded possession enabling Matthew Dodd to round Tommy Hannigan on the left and play the ball into the six yard box where Bellingham had the easiest of chances to put Sutton a goal up.
It was just the start that Rainworth could have done without, and three minutes later with Charlesworth again struggling, Bellingham turned creator with a ball in from the right to Marshall. Hales did get a hand to the striker’s blistering shot at full stretch but could not keep it out.
Rainworth were shell shocked and Hales brilliantly tipped aside a dangerous cross shot from Harris, Craig Owen’s follow-up going behind.
Rainworth did manage to win a corner in a rare sortie in the 20th minute which was cleared only as far as Alberry, but his shot was routinely saved.
Four minutes later Fearon picked up a caution for a late challenge on Owen, Stuart McNaught heading Owen’s free kick over the bar. Within a minute Fearon was in trouble with the referee again, lucky to remain in the field but receiving a long lecture after leading with his arm in his next challenge.
It was only a temporary stay of execution though, for two fouls later in the 35th minute the right wing back was given his second yellow and the inevitable red for persistent misconduct.
Meanwhile, Baxter had been relieved of his sweeping duties to return to midfield with Alberry dropping back to defence, but with Fearon gone Baxter took over his role on the right.
As so often happens when a team goes down to 10 men they begin to play better for each other, and so it was. And after Marshall had screwed a glorious chance wide for the home side Ant Lynam and Carolan both had shots blocked following a Wrens free kick, Baxter going close from the ensuing corner.
It was a brief respite, and when Hales was caught unawares from Owen’s dipper he managed to turn the ball onto the bar and see it rebound to safety. He then again made a great save in stoppage time to deny Dodd.
Rainworth played with more purpose after the interval, but Hales was forced to save with his feet in a one on one with Bellingham eight minutes in, and then denied Marshall in another eyeball to eyeball confrontation.
Carolan pulled a goal back in the 61st minute, in the right place at the right time when Clark could only parry Lynam’s driven free kick from distance.
But with three minutes Sutton restored their three goal cushion, when Alberry’s miscued clearance only reached McNaught. His shot was blocked but rebounded to Harris who made no mistake.
The scoring was complete in the 72nd minute as Matt Jackson played the ball through for Bellingham to slip home and complete his hat-trick.
Hales continued to stand between the Royals and more goals though, twice denying Marshall, while in stoppage time substitute Thomas headed off the line from Ed Booth following a corner.
SUTTON COLDFIELD: Clark, Miller, M. Jackson, N. Dodd, Booth, McNaught, M. Dodd, Owen (Quiggin 72), Marshall, Bellingham (Higgs 74), Harris (Burns 85). Subs not used: Busby, Lewis.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Baxter, Charlesworth (Thomas 64), Hannigan, Fearon, Carolan, Jepson (L. Jackson 54), Paling (McLane 72), Mitchell, Lynam, Alberry. Sub not used: Wilkinson.
REFEREE: J. Clark of Walsall.
GOALS: Sutton—Bellingham 2, 31, 72; Marshall 5; Harris 64. Rainworth—Carolan 61.
DISMISSAL: Rainworth—Fearon 35 (second caution, persistent misconduct).
MEN OF THE MATCH: Sutton and overall—Mark Bellingham. Rainworth—Mark Hales.