On a day when the result was irrelevant.
Today was Rainworth MWFC’s last game in the NECL, after requesting voluntary relegation, a day for the travelling fans and players to say their goodbyes.
Two months ago, on transfer deadline day a squad of 25 players was considered more than sufficient to see out the remainder of the season. Sadly, today that proved not to be the case as a succession of serious injuries and a season extension that clashed with pre-booked holidays meant only 12 players were available for the game at Thackley.
One of the players missing because of a cruciate injury sustained on the 20th February and operated on this Friday, was goalkeeper and club captain Ben Townsend. Since then Andy Francis has stepped in and maintained the high standard of goalkeeping that the fans had come to expect. In Monday night’s League Cup tie against Liversedge, Andy sustained what he thought was a badly bruised shoulder, an examination on Friday confirmed it to be more serious and he too was side-lined with ligament damage.
With no other keeper on the books, manager Craig Denton was faced with a dilemma, up stepped the clubs leading candidate for ‘Player of the Season’ Max Pemberton, volunteering to have the gloves for the day. The previous Monday in the League Cup he had starred in midfield scoring both goals. A mention must also be given to Liam Royles and Alex Nightingale who both were both pressed into returns after injury, sooner that he would have liked.
As early as the 8th minute Pemberton was called in to action when he easily gathered Lawrence Hunter’s free-kick. A minute later he was grateful when Matt Broadley’s misdirected cross came back off the crossbar.
Rainworth who had started the match brightly, had their first real effort in the 13th minute but Charlie Dawes effort was straight at Luke Wilson and it was easily gathered. Two minutes later and they took the lead when Dawes’s fine run saw the ball pulled back into the path of Gareth Curtis who placed it into the corner of the net.
Rainworth continued to threaten with a combination of neat passing and movement and Curtis’s excellent mazy run was only ended when he lost his footing in the penalty area and it was cleared.
A brief period of Thackley pressure saw Jordan Hines put a good chance wide, quickly followed by James Rothel’s effort which was also wide of the target.
Thackley had Wilson to thank that Curtis didn’t double both his and Rainworth’s total, when he blocked his goal-bound effort with legs, after he had been set-up by Modest.
Rainworth had a scare when they allowed a corner to travel across the goalmouth, leaving Thackley wondering just how they failed to have converted the chance. From the corner Mike Garrod’s flick is inches over the bar with Pemberton beaten.
In the final minute of the half-time Dawes created space but his effort was inches wide as Rainworth finished the half on the front foot.
The game turned on its head straight from the second-half kick-off, when in eight crazy minutes Thackley had the ball in the net three times. Within less than a minute Luke Robinson’s speculative effort from distance somehow found its way under Pemberton’s body for the opener.
On 52 minutes the situation got even worse when Broadley’s shot cum cross beat Pemberton at the near post and a minute later Garrod’s free-kick left him rooted to the spot.
Rainworth however didn’t give up the fight and Tomas Poole tested Wilson from distance, but the keeper was up to the test. A minute later and Dawes beat him all-ends- up only to see his effort rebound off the post. He regathered the rebound and his inch-perfect cross was headed home by Curtis.
Thackley had a huge piece of good fortune in the 61st minute when Pemberton did well to parry Robinson’s effort but when Richard Adams clearance struck Robinson it rebounded into the net.
Still Rainworth came forward and Adams was unlucky when his header was inches the wrong side of the upright and Dawes’s goal-bound effort was deflected into Wilson’s arms.
The 73rd minute saw Dawes once again leave defenders in his wake, but his effort found the side-netting.
Rainworth brought on Nightingale for the limping Poole in the 76th minute and shortly afterwards Curtis laid the ball into Matt Sykes’s path and he made no mistake to reduce the arrears to just one goal.
There was one last chance for Rainworth in the final minute, but Sykes’s free-kick was gathered on the line by Wilson.
At the final whistle Rainworth’s small band of travelling fans applauded their make-shift team off the field for a performance that nearly produced the victory they craved.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Pemberton; Royles; Jones; Goodwin; Ludlam; Adams; Curtis; Poole (Nightingale); Modest; Sykes; Dawes.
Referee; J. Rhodes