Wrens punished after bright start
RAINWORTH paid the price for not making their first half hour of superiority at Watnall Road count when hosts Hucknall Town grabbed a 77th-minute winner.
After that opening half-hour which saw the Wrens holding the upper hand, Hucknall gradually took over the initiative.
And in the second half it became the old story of the Rainworth defence coming under severe pressure and holding out until late on, when they were finally cracked in the 77th minute, leaving the Wrens with just one point from their last four matches following their great start to the season.
Disappointingly the match ended with red cards for Rainworth’s Cameron Fearon and Hucknall’s Nick Ghizlanzoni for fighting following a foul awarded to Rainworth—it was an incident totally out of character with the rest of the match.
For the first league meeting between the two sides since 1988-89 when both were in the Notts Alliance, Rainworth abandoned their three centre backs formation returning Fearon to the right. With recent arrivals Sean Cann and Geoge Zuerner both on the injured list, Kyle Gee-Pemberton was asked to fill the right wing berth while Craig Mitchell and James Wilson were the starting strikers.
New signing Zeke Jenkins from Loughborough was to have been included on the bench but he arrived late so gave way to Eugene Francis.
Meanwhile only one of Hucknall’s three ex-Wrens began, left-back James Jepson who captained the Yellows. Matt Baxter emerged from the bench for the final few minutes, but there was no place for Phil Massingham.
The two sides had arrived at this level from opposite directions with Rainworth enjoying their second season at this level after working their way up, while Hucknall had fallen from grace somewhat from the Conference North and their well-documented FA Trophy final appearance, and are operating as an all-amateur side after falling foul of the taxman in the close season.
Following Jared Holmes’ shot straight at Gavin Saxby after just 41 seconds it was Rainworth, with the strong wind at their backs who began to establish an early grip, and they had a second minute chance when Mitchell laid off Fearon’s throw-in for Ian Clarke, whose angled effort home keeper James Lindley touched around the near post, then Lindley claimed James Wilson’s pull-back from the by-line off the feet of the inrunning Mitchell.
It was not all one way, though, and Chris Timons had to be alert to tidy up when Fearon miscued a poor clearance to Callum Lloyd.
Lindley remained the busier of the two keepers though, and had to stretch up to turn over Clarke’s long inswinging free kick in the 17th minute.
Two minutes later Lavell White had a glorious chance but carried the ball too far wide when Lindley advanced, the keeper then smartly out again to deny Gee-Pemberton in a one on one.
Rainworth appealed in vain for a 33rd minute penalty when Romaine Graham appeared to handle in the area, and Hucknall broke away as Rainworth were caught appealing—fortunately Steve Kennedy stood firm.
As Hucknall began to ask more questions their fans also appealed for a spot kick but the referee ruled that Fearon’s challenge on Aidan Brady was fair.
Within half a minute of the restart Lindley was holding Gee-Pemberton’s low cross at the feet of Wilson, then Lindley was forced to head a poor back pass for a corner, but it proved a false dawn for the Wrens, as the now familiar rearguard action became the story of the match.
Jepson’s free kick flattened Mitchell in the defensive wall and Hucknall then won a series of corners, but were still struggling to break down the Rainworth defence.
Despite their resilience, though, the ball was being given away far too often in midfield as the Wrens contrived to put themselves under additional pressure.
Kieran Walker was booked for a foul for bringing down Mitchell after conceding possession to him, and a fine 64th-minute run by Gee-Pemberton raised the visitors’ hopes, only for the youngster to finish wildly off target.
The Wrens were almost caught out by a quickly taken free kick which found the menacing Brady on the right, and Kennedy stuck out a foot to divert the winger’s shot for a corner. Then shortly afterwards Nathan Watson ghosted round the back on the left but shot beyond the far post.
Francis replaced Gee-Pemberton in the 69th minute, and two minutes later the Wrens were almost undone by the best move of the match, involving Grant Ryan, Lloyd, Nathan Watson and Holmes, until Lee Briggs scrambled the ball behind for yet another home corner.
But the goal which had been coming finally arrived in the 77th minute. Clarke, digging out, failed to clear, the ball fell to Holmes, and he drove it into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
It could have been 2-0 in the 87th minute but for Saxby’s one-on-one save from substitute Kieran Watson.
Wrens hopes were momentarily raised when Clarke sent substitute Oli Wood into the box, but he was quickly closed down by Graham before he could pull the trigger.
That was Rainworth’s last chance, and in stoppage time Ghislanzoni headed over the far angle after good work by fellow-subs Baxter and Kieran Watson.
It grew worse for Ghizlanzoni, and for Fearon, almost right on the final whistle, when a foul sparked a melee in which both appeared to throw punches, and both were shown the red card.
HUCKNALL: Lindley, Walker, Jepson, Pheasant, Graham, Holmes, N. Watson (Ghizlanzoni 71), Lloyd, Ryan (Baxter 85), Westcarr (K. Watson 71), Brady. Subs not used: Goodacre, Harvey.
RAINWORTH: Saxby, Fearon, Briggs, Hanson, Kennedy, Timons, Gee-Pemberton (Francis 69), Clarke, Mitchell, Wilson (Wood 76), White (Cooksey 77). Subs not used: Ward, Carter.
REFEREE: Nicholas Hopton of Derby
GOAL: Hucknall—Holmes 77.
SENT OFF: Hucknall—Ghislanzoni 90+3 (violent conduct); Rainworth—Fearon 90+3 (violent conduct).
MENOF THE MATCH: Hucknall—Jared Holmes. Rainworth—Chris Timons.