Rushbury's late strike guns down Wrens
BELPER substitute Andy Rushbury emerged from the bench to end Rainworth’s last remaining Division One South 100 per cent record at Christ Church Meadow today.
The Wrens’ first defeat of the season saw them knocked off the top of the division after an early five-day sojourn at the head.
Rushbury struck in the 86th minute when, for maybe the first time this campaign, Rainworth’s hitherto excellent defence momentarily switched off, giving the son of ex-Chesterfield manager Dave a clear sight of goal, and he made no mistake.
Rainworth had stood firm at the back in the face of some heavy first half pressure, and had taken something of a grip after the interval.
But despite the inclusion of new boy George Zuerner from Lincoln United, who looked a more than useful recruit until substituted for the last quarter-hour, Rainworth lacked a cutting edge — and they really cannot complain about one defensive lapse if it isn’t happening for them at the front end.
Prior to the goal Rainworth did have a couple of let-offs, when firstly Jon Froggatt curled a delightful 20-yard shot against the angle, and then when referee Howard Rowbotham was unimpressed when Lee Morris went down in the box under Joe Carter’s challenge.
That decision, though, cancelled out Rainworth’s claim for a penalty of their own when Zuerner appeared to have been tripped in the box.
However, in a match where each side had two ex-opposition players it was Mark Camm, now captaining the Nailers, and Tommy Hannigan who emerged the more satisfied against Carter and Wrens skipper Steve Kennedy.
With Sean Cann failing a fitness test after his injury at Grantham in midweek Lavell White was moved inside from wide right, allowing Zuerner to fill that berth in the only change to the starting line-up from the midweek 1-0 win at Grantham.
The Nailers, who had taken only one point from their first two matches, were soon on the offensive, and when in the sixth minute Kennedy brought down Morris, Gavin Saxby was down well to hold Deon Meikle’s free kick.
Rainworth’s first effort was a pot from distance by Joe Ward which went well wide in the 13th minute, but Kennedy had to be alert shortly afterwards to block as Froggatt pounced on Ward’s under-hit back pass meant for Chris Timons.
And Ward could count himself lucky to remain on the field in the 18th minute after appearing to stamp on Jamie Smith as he tried to extricate himself from the grounded Belper man’s clutches.
Belper continued to ask stern questions of the Rainworth defence, but with Kennedy dominant and Carter keeping a tight rein on home danger man Ruben Wiggins-Thomas, the Nailers were being kept pretty much at bay despite having the bulk of possession and territorial advantage.
Lavell White was twice prominent on the counter-attack though in quick succession, first harrying Richard Adams into an error while chasing a seeming lost cause, and then his head just failing to connect with Zuerner’s near post cross.
Belper’s best chance to date arrived on 32, when for once Carter stood off allowing Wiggins-Thomas a shot which went high and wide, and then Saxby stopped Morris’ point blank glancing header on the line, but that was countered by Zuerner whose effort on the turn deflected behind off Matt Plant.
Carter made up for his minor lapse with an important challenge on Morris when Timons inexplicably played a ‘hospital’ pass into his own area as the half ended goalless.
It was Rainworth’s turn to come out strongly for the second half, and inside the second minute White’s tight angled effort from the left just beat the far post.
And when Ian Clarke was unceremoniously dumped on the edge of the area he got up to drive his free kick into the defensive wall.
Damien Magee was relieved to head Carter’s angled cross for a corner before Zuerner could capitalise, and more industrious work by the new boy resulted only in White, running in at the near post, steering wide.
As Belper finally got back into their stride Froggatt was very unlucky to see his 20-yarder come back off the top of the upright in the 63rd minute.
But a minute later, when Zuerner was picked out by Cameron Fearon’s piercing through pass and ran into the box he appeared to be impeded, but Mr Rowbotham was having none of it, neither was he four minutes later when Morris went down under Carter’s challenge claiming in vain that he was pushed.
The tiring Zuerner had exited for the closing stages having run himself into the ground, and Belper began to re-establish an upper hand with Saxby doing well to parry Meikle’s 12-yard attempt following a home corner.
Still Rainworth defended solidly — until the 86th minute when they allowed themselves to be pulled to their left. The ball was knocked infield, and Rushbury, with a clear shot available to him, gave Saxby no chance.
Mr Rowbotham allowed Rainworth five added minutes to pull it back, but even with the introduction of debutant Eugene Francis for Craig Mitchell, the finish just wasn’t there on the day.
BELPER: Richmond, Adams, Magee, Camm, Plant, Hannigan, Wiggins-Thomas (Pride 79), Meikle, Froggatt, Smith (Rushbury 62), Morris. Subs not used: Ortuno, Thorpe, Spargo.
RAINWORTH: Saxby, Fearon, Carter, Timons, Kennedy, Ward, Zuerner (Gee-Pemberton 74), Clarke, Mitchell (Francis 66), White, Hanson. Subs not used: Mayman, Briggs, Wood.
REFEREE: Howard Rowbotham of Mansfield.
GOAL: Belper—Rushbury 86.
WRENS MEN OF THE MATCH: George Zuerner.