Coronation put on hold
AFC Mansfield came to Kirklington Road knowing a victory and a home win mid-week against the chasing Pontefract Collieries, would put pressure on them, and with it the possibility of the title.
Both sides had players missing, but it was Rainworth who took the game to Mansfield for the opening twenty minutes and with a little more composure could have taken the lead.
As the half progressed it was AFC Mansfield who showed why they are currently holding down the top spot in the league, albeit having played more games than their chasers, and they took the lead in the 27th minute.
They continued to dominate the opening exchanges of the second-half and the contest looked to be over when Rainworth’s Tomas Poole collected his second yellow and subsequent red in the 56th minute.
Rainworth are made of sterner stuff and for the remainder of the game, despite being down to ten men, battled for every ball, their efforts were rewarded in the 78th minute when they equalised from the penalty spot.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the opening minutes, knowing any mistake could hand the initiative to their opponents.
Rainworth almost got on the scoresheet in the 7th minute when Kyle Jordan’s corner only needed a touch when it flew across the six-yard box.
They went close in the 16th minute when Poole’s cross was placed inches wide of the far post by Ross Goodwin. Then in quick succession Matt Sykes just failed to get anything on the ball with the goal beckoning and Nathan Modest’s fierce drive was inches wide of the far post with Jason White beaten.
The dynamics of the match began to change as AFC Mansfield pressed forward and Andy Francis had to be alert as he blocked a goal-bound shot and it was cleared. They should probably have taken the lead a minute later, when the leagues leading scorer Ollie Fearon, put his effort wide of the far post.
The opening goal came in the 27th minute when ex Wren Craig Mitchell’s shot was parried by Francis and Cameron Dear was on hand to tap the ball home.
There were half-chances for both sides, but neither were able to convert them and at the half-time whistle it was AFC Mansfield who were leading by a solitary goal.
Rainworth had the first chance of the second half but Charlie Dawes’s effort was straight at White.
At the other end Francis did well to gather Matt Wilson’s effort on the line. Then disaster struck for Rainworth when Poole was shown a second yellow card and subsequently a red as he was dismissed, leaving Rainworth with ten men.
The sending off appeared to galvanise Rainworth, and they upped their work-rate contesting every ball.
They almost paid the penalty in the 62nd minute when AFC counter-attacked with Rainworth down to nine men as Sykes lay injured, but fortunately Dear’s effort went over. Rainworth were forced into making a substitution bringing on Luke Walker for the injured Sykes.
Still AFC Mansfield came forward and Rainworth had Francis to thank as he did well to gather Joran Annable’s pile-driver.
Rainworth still pushed forward and their efforts were rewarded when in the 77th minute they were awarded a penalty when Walker was adjudged to have been pulled-back in the area.
Despite a degree of gamesmanship before the penalty was taken, Jordan seemed oblivious and gave White no chance from the spot for the deserved equaliser.
This signalled a period of AFC Mansfield pressure, but the ten men of Rainworth had no intention of capitulating and even created the odd threat on their opponents’ goal. Francis epitomised that resilience when he made an excellent block on Mitchell’s pile-driver from point-blank range.
In the 89th minute Rainworth made their second substitution bringing on Gareth Curtis for Charlie Dawes.
After a lengthy period of stoppage time the referee blew for full-time and against the odds Rainworth had secured a well-earned draw.
Despite the setback, AFC Mansfield are still on course for promotion to the Evo-Stik, even if the title is now out of their hands. Rainworth must take credit for their battling performance, having now earned two creditable draws against one of the league’s top teams.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Francis; Ludlam; Jones; Goodwin; Wankiewicz; Pemberton; Poole; Dawes (Curtis); Modest; Jordan; Sykes (Walker).
Referee: Mr. Matthew Law