Second half slumber was Wrens' undoing
Evo-Stik League Division I South
Rainworth MW 0 Kidsgrove Athletic 1
Report by Gordon Foster
RAINWORTH paid the price for a split personality performance as promotion-chasing Kidsgrove took all three points.
The Wrens, who went into the game with three wins and a draw in their previous five outings, were a good match in the first half for a side which had thrashed them 4-0 earlier in the season.
But they withdrew into their shell after the interval, sat too deeply, and effectively invited the Staffordshire visitors to come at them.
And Kidsgrove took advantage with Aiden Matranga’s single 65th minute strike.
It was a Wrens performance which left manager Billy Millar and coach Darren Kelk less than impressed.
For, while there was little to choose between the sides prior to the interval, Millar and Kelk bemoaned a lack of any spark in the second period.
Kelk said: “Make no mistake, we will stay up, but between now and the end of the season we will be looking at which players are going to be here next season and which ones are not. Today there were about seven candidates for the second category.”
Millar added: “It’s all very well being good one week, good the next, but if you are so-so in the third and then poor in the fourth that is not acceptable, and today we were poor—even in the first half when we were on an even keel with them we created hardly anything.
“With Glapwell’s game being off they were here to watch us today and will have gone home rubbing their hands at what they have seen in advance of our visit to them on Tuesday.”
Kidsgrove had lost to local promotion rivals Newcastle Town in midweek, but their form up to that point had been impressive, so Rainworth always were going to have their work cut out.
A surprise inclusion was Ian Clarke in midfield but he was withdrawn at half time, feeling a pull on his troublesome calf.
Rob Paling switched flanks from the right to left of defence, with Mark Camm filling the right back berth, thereby allowing Danny Naylor to start in midfield. But the returning Ryan Carolan and Tommy Hannigan had to be content with places on the bench, along with Nick Langford who made way for the return of Craig Mitchell to the starting line-up.
Rainworth began brightly with Lee Cooksey winning an early corner and Clarke not quite managing enough power on his fourth minute angled effort to really trouble Steve Hodgson in the home goal.
When Kidsgrove responded in the 10th minute Barry Alberry made a fine challenge to halt the run of livewire Liam Shotton.
But Rainworth continued to carry the game to the visitors, Cooksey stabbing wide after Max Wright chested down Kyle Gee-Pemberton’s cross into his path.
Shotton saw a rasping shot on the turn skid wide as Kidsgrove began to make their presence felt more, and then Mark Hales was down well to cut out Shotton’s driven cross after the lively forward was sent on a run by the eye-catching efforts of Matranga.
Clarke sent Gee-Pemberton on a promising run down the left in Rainworth’s next threat, only for the youngster to be thwarted by a cruel bobble as his shot was sliced wide.
Kidsgrove were celebrating, prematurely as it happened, in the 41st minute when Shotton found the net with a cross shot, only for it to be ruled out for offside by an assistant’s flag.
But Rainworth did not deserve to turn round behind. The back four of Camm, Cameron Fearon, Alberry and the gutsy, determined Paling had done an effective shut out and the Wrens had shown themselves the equals of the highly-placed Athletic in terms of possession.
Clarke was withdrawn at half time as a precautionary measure and Nick Langford took to the field.
However, gone was Rainworth’s early confident play as they defended too deeply, and Kidsgrove inevitably took a grip on the game.
Ricky Bridge had an 18-yard volley saved and, after Hales came out to meet Shotton but missed out, Fearon was back quickly to clear.
Wright did go close in a now rare Rainworth sortie but it was Kidsgrove who were looking the more likely to break the deadlock, and they did so in the 65th minute when Matranga found just enough space in the area to slot home.
Wright volleyed Gee-Pemberton’s deep cross wide as a stung Rainworth tried to hit back, but Karl Charlton hit the bar for the visitors in the 70th minute.
Carolan, normally a left back, replaced Gee-Pemberton in the 70th minute but, strangely, in midfield, Camm remaining at right back and Paling on the left.
However, Paling was twice in the right place at the right time to come to Rainworth’s rescue, first closing down Dave Walker—scorer of all four of Kidsgrove’s goals against the Wrens back in October but kept quiet on this occasion—and then clearing off the line to again deny the same player.
In the final 10 minutes Carolan, Camm and Paling switched to their more accustomed positions, but although in the closing stages Rainworth seemed to find something of their first half quality they still lacked the cutting edge to find the equaliser they needed to keep their recent good record going.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Camm, Paling, Fearon, Alberry, Cooksey, Wright, Naylor (Hewitt 82), Mitchell, Gee-Pemberton (Carolan 70), Clarke (Langford ht). Subs nut used: Hannigan, Frost.
KIDSGROVE: Hodgson, Smith, Dove, Ward, Johnson, Charlton, Matranga, Sanders (Beasley 83), Walker, Shotton, Bridge. Subs not used: Haddrell, Hall, Schwarz, Morris.
REFEREE: Martin Parker of Wakefield.
GOAL: Kidsgrove—Matranga 65.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Rob Paling. Kidsgrove and overall—Liam Shotton.