Blame it on Brian!!
Anyone at Sheerien Park expecting a classic between Athersley Recreation and Rainworth MWFC were disappointed as ‘Storm Brian’ played its part in ensuring it wasn’t.
It made the football a lottery and whichever team had the wind at their backs benefited, with ‘Brian’ acting like a ‘twelfth man’.
Athersley started the first-half with the wind at their backs and soon forced Rainworth onto the back-foot.
Rainworth defended manfully and the closest Athersley came to a goal was in the 10th minute when a Rainworth defensive header was almost blown back into the net by the strong wind, fortunately it went out for a corner.
Rainworth did manage to get into their opponent’s half but one effort was thwarted by an offside flag and Ross Goodwin’s header was just over.
Just as Rainworth appeared to have mastered the conditions, an error in midfield saw them concede as Ben Walker’s effort, aided by Brian, from the edge of the box evaded Ben Townsends full stretch dive for the opener on 21 minutes.
The wind strength increased and Rainworth began to struggle to get the ball out of their half as Athersley pushed for a second.
Athersley were unable to take advantage of the elements and in the 37th minute Lee Garside squandered an excellent opportunity, heading wide when well placed.
Then in the final minute of the half Ben Walker put his effort the wrong side of the post with the goal beckoning.
As the referee blew for half-time it was Rainworth who were the happier of the two teams, apart from a couple of occasions they had handled the wind well and restricted Athersley’s opportunities to minimum.
From the kick-off for the second-half Rainworth signalled their intentions as Tomas Poole’s effort from distance flashed past the upright.
On 51 minutes they went one better when the keeper was unable to hold Luke Walker’s fierce shot and Poole was on hand to put in the rebound.
Rainworth were starting to dominate as they took advantage of the conditions.
The shots were reigning in as first Matt Sykes’s effort hit the side-netting, quickly followed by Poole’s which was saved at full stretch by the keeper.
The breakthrough came on 57 minutes when Sykes drove at the defence and hit an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the bottom corner, giving the keeper no chance.
A couple of minutes later it was Sykes again but his effort on the volley was well wide as the pressure continued to build on the Athersley goal.
The constant pressure saw Niall Smith’s cross headed into the keepers’ arms by Rob Ludlam, quickly followed by Walker’s effort, once again into the keepers’ arms.
On 69 minutes Rainworth showed how to utilise the conditions when Sykes hit an absolute, wind-assisted, screamer into the top corner from 35yards plus, with the keeper a mere spectator.
Walker again tried from distance but his effort was well off target.
Rainworth made their first substitution on 75 minutes bringing on Liam Royles for Danny Booth and their second on 78 minutes, bringing on Jordan Claxton for the injured Smith.
Athersley did rally late on, but it was too little, too late as they rued their inability to have made better use of the elements in the first half.
At the final whistle It was Rainworth who ran out deserved 3-1 winners. A testament to the management teams game plan and the players execution in conditions that were far from ideal.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Townsend; Ludlam; N. Smith (Claxton); Goodwin; Ross; Pemberton; Booth (Royles); Waddle; Walker; Poole; Sykes.
Subs (not used): Modest; Knowles; Barnes.