Wrens' 10 men hold out for Gee's first win
RESILIENT Rainworth’s 10 men drew on all their reserves of character and grit to hold out for the win which lifted them off the bottom of the league.
The Wrens must be something of a bogey side for Leek, having completed the double over them last season, and then ending the Blues’ unbeaten away league record for the current campaign while giving new boss Kev Gee his first win for the club.
Having established a 2-0 interval lead courtesy of two Nathan Adams strikes in three minutes—his first goals for the Wrens—just before the half-hour, Rainworth were forced to play the final 40 minutes plus four added with 10 men when Ian Clarke was shown a red card for raising a seemingly retaliatory hand at Christian Millar.
From then on it was a backs to the wall action for a seemingly interminable second half.
And when Glyn Mellor pulled one back for the visitors in the 74th minute one feared a repeat of the 3-2 defeat at Quorn after having led 2-0.
However, an inspired defensive display ensured that Rainworth were not going to waste the chance of climbing back out of the bottom two—but the cheers at the final whistle were as much of relief as of elation.
Make no mistake—these were three thoroughly deserved points, even if the visitors, with James McCarthy at the heart of everything they did, played the better football and, in the second half, had more of the possession.
In particular Tommy Hannigan kept a tight rein on the threat that is Matt Haddrell, Steve Kennedy put in a captain’s performance, and Mark Camm, pulled out of midfield to play centre back, showed all the qualities in that position that he had when he first joined the Wrens midway through last season.
And behind them keeper Joe McCormack’s handling and organising were first rate.
With Cameron Fearon injured on Saturday Ricky Hanson switched from left to right wing back, allowing Joe Carter to come in on the left. Clarke, who had also picked up a knock on Saturday, was a surprise inclusion, and new boy Stephen Akers from Mickleover Sports made his debut in a front three alongside Adams and Ant Lynam.
McCarthy showed his paces early with two mazy runs in the first three minutes, but he shot weakly at the end of his first, and then Hanson did superbly well to tackle back and dispossess him at his second bite of the cherry.
Optimistic appeals by the visitors for a penalty were waved away when Sean Turner went down very easily in the area under Hannigan’s challenge, and McCormack did well to push aside a wicked cross-shot from McCarthy, deflecting it just out of Turner’s reach.
Rainworth showed their paces in the 17th minute through a brilliant jinking run by Adams, at the end of which he lifted his 20-yard attempt just too high then, with Rainworth enjoying a spell with the upper hand, good work by Adams and Carter created a half-chance for Danny Bacon who volleyed too high from 25 yards.
But Adams then struck twice in threeminutes to put the Wrens well in control.
First, in the 26th minute, he raced onto a through ball to fire confidently past the advancing Danny Roberts. Then three minutes later he robbed the dallying Ashley Wooliscroft on the left to score from a tight angle.
He might have made it a five-minute hat-trick, but his first touch onto Akers’ through pass let him down in the area.
It was far from all one way though, with McCarthy again advancing, only to be blocked by Camm. The ball broke to Haddrell who flashed his shot from the left of the box past the far post.
Adams advanced again just before half time when a Leek corner was cleared, but the ball ran unkindly for him in the Leek box then, almost on the half time whistle, Clarke broke from another Leek corner to set up the striker again, but this time he pulled his finish wide.
The game turned five minutes into the restart when Clarke appeared to raise a retaliatory hand at Christian Millar who went down as if pole-axed. Mr Griffiths was suitably impressed and showed Clarke the red card.
It was the signal for all out attack by the visitors, and after McCormack had charged off his line to save bravely at McCarthy’s feet the Wrens made the inevitsble change, sacrificing striker Lynam to bolster the midfield with the introduction of Lee Cooksey.
As Leek poured forward Rainworth were increasingly restricted to breakaways, and when the visitors sent on an extra attacker in Oliver Edwards for defender Ricky Bridge in the 65th minute the pressure on the home defence intensified.
Edwards was booked within seconds of coming on for a heavy lunge on Kennedy, but home hearts were in mouths in the 68th minute when Camm managed to head clear a McCarthy cross under pressure from Haddrell, who was in any case adjudged to have fouled and picked up a yellow card.
Rainwolrth responded with more fine work from Adams and Hanson who combined to set up the industrious Bacon who curled his attempt too high.
But Leek were back in it in the 74th minute as Mellor rose highest in a crowded box to head-flick Wooliscroft’s long free kick over the stretching McCormack.
Rainworth should have restored their cushion on a 78th minute breakaway, but when Akers broke clear he held on to the ball for too long with the well-placed Adams screaming for the pass, and when he did release the ball it went behind for a corner off a defender.
Adams popped up at the other end with a vital line clearance as the visitors won a succession of corners, then McCormack made two confident saves.
Mr Griffiths indicated four long added minutes to a half which had seemed an age long, but the Wrens were in no mood to let it slip.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Hanson, Carter, Hannigan, Camm, Kennedy, Clarke, Bacon, Adams (Wood 90+2), Lynam (Cooksey 54), Akers (Spargo 80). Subs not used: Barker, Timons.
LEEK: Roberts, Wooliscroft, Bridge (Edwards 65), Tinson, Mellor, Turner (Nixon ht), McCarthy, Holmes (Spence 85), Haddrell, Millar, Sanders. Sub not used: Corden.
REFEREE: Mark Griffiths of Doncaster.
GOALS: Rainworth—Adams 26, 29. Leek—Mellor 74.
SENT OFF: Rainworth—Clarke 50 (violent conduct).
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Nathan Adams. Leek—James McCarthy.