No fairy tale start for new boss
THERE was to be no fairy tale start to new manager Kevin Gee’s Rainworth career as league leaders Ilkeston held too many aces.
But there was plenty of food for thought for the new boss, including a number of positives which he identified after the match as something with which he could work as he seeks to lift his charges off the foot of the table.
It was to be expected that the league leaders would show the greater presence up front against a side whose goals for column in the league table is still to hit double figures.
But Rainworth did manage to engineer a few decent chances of their own, although by the time Mark Camm managed to take one of them in the 82nd minute the Robins were already three goals to the good.
But within two minutes of Camm’s consolation goal Ilkeston skipper Daryll Thomas restored the visitors’ three goal cushion that they had established by half time, courtesy of an unlucky own goal by Ricky Hanson, giant striker Gary Ricketts, and Thomas.
And although Rainworth had a clear case for a penalty turned down in the 89th minute when Ryan Wilson handled at the post, it would have been purely academic.
Gee had recruited two new players in Steve Akers from Mickleover Sports and Ben Spargo from Belper, but Akers had pulled up with an injury in training on Thursday night and did not figure. Spargo, though, came off the bench for the final half-hour or so.
There were two changes to the starting line-up from that which had performed so promisingly against Loughborough in the previous game. Ian Clarke, back to full fitness, got the nod in midfield ahead of Josh Barker who remained on the bench, while Nathan Adams also returned upfront from injury to replace Sean Cann who has been released.
Perhaps Rainworth will have felt a little hard done to by the three goal margin, but all Ilkeston’s goals could have been prevented.
In front of a bumper crowd of 353, boosted by a large away following and also by several Mansfield fans whose own favourites had no game, Adams had the first serious goal attempt of the match in the fifth minute, his 23-yarder from Ant Lynam’s knock down clearing the angle, although not by much.
Ilkeston threatened for the first time in the 12th minute, Thomas not quite able to meet a probing cross from the left when well placed.
There was a scare for the Wrens in the 17th minute following a mix-up between Tommy Hannigan and keeper Joe McCormack, which Hanson did well to tidy up.
At the other end Danny Bacon, putting on his best performance so far in a Rainworth shirt, forced teenage hot property Ben Gathercole into an excellent save with a teasing 35-yard dipper which the keeper did well to turn over his bar.
Bacon then turned creator with a sweet piece of control to set up Adams, who unluckily was unable to keep his feet in the box, leading to half-hearted but unjustified claims for a penalty.
Ilkeston sounded a 22nd minute warning when Ricketts headed against the bar, and Joseph McGuire’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Hanson.
But Hanson was cursing his luck two minutes later. James Cullingworth floated a rather questionable free kick into the box, McCormack came for it but failed to claim, and in the melee which followed the ball struck the back of Hanson’s head and rebounded over the line.
It was a hammer blow for the Wrens who, up to that point, had held their own, and six more minutes on, on the half-hour, Ilkeston struck again., Ricketts left free to head home a Cullingworth cross from the right.
Rainworth tried to hit back with Hanson’s deep cross just too high for the leaping Lynam at the far post before McCormack was back in action, tipping over Wilson’s teasing cross-cum-shot from the left.
However, any hopes Rainworth may have had of a second half fightback were undone in the 44th minute. Ricketts picked out Thomas with a sublime crossfield pass into the box, and although McCormack did well to parry the skipper’s initial effort spectacularly the rebound fell kindly for Thomas who made no mistake with his second bite of the cherry.
As the second half got under way Cameron Fearon was prominent going forward along the right for Rainworth, but both his cross shot and Lynam’s follow-up were blocked.
Both sides were huffing and puffing without creating over-much at this stage, although McCormack brilliantly palmed away Matt Richards’ wicked cross-shot.
Clarke, who had picked up a knock at the start of the second half, made way for Spargo, and then Craig Mitchell replaced Lynam as Gee decided to look at other options, and at last Rainworth got one back in the 82nd minute, but not before Thomas had missed a sitter for the Ilkeston, scooping well over after Liam Green’s run and cross.
The goal came from more good work by the busy Bacon, with Camm ghosting in to glance a header over the line.
But Ilkeston quickly restored their advantage on 84 when, with McCormack twice failing to claim the ball cleanly, Thomas profited with a clinical finish from the right into an unguarded net.
Rainworth did have penalty appeals waved away when Wilson clearly controlled the ball with his arm near the post. A penalty, if scored, would have finally tipped the goals for column into double figures at long last, but it was not to be.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Fearon (Carter 89), Hanson, Hannigan, Kennedy, Timons, Bacon, Camm, Adams, Lynam (Mitchell 72), Clarke (Spargo 63). Subs not used: Cooksey, Barker.
ILKESTON: Gathercole, Cullingworth, Wilson, Colton, Hill, McGuire, Wilcox, Green, Ricketts (Waite 78), Thomas, Richards (Robinson 85). Subs not used: Partridge, Smith, Butcher.
REFEREE: Mark Hutchinson of Bingham.
GOALS: Rainworth– Camm 82. Ilkeston—Hanson og 24; Ricketts 30; Thomas 44, 84.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Danny Bacon. Ilkeston and overall—Gary Ricketts.