Same old same old as Wrens fall to leaders
THERE was to be no repeat of history at the BT Local Business Stadium on Tuesday night as Rainworth’s barren run continued.
In similar circumstances last season Rainworth ended a long winless sequence with a thumping 4-1 triumph in which Ant Lynam helped himself to a hat-trick.
But how the Wrens are missing someone of Lynam’s goalscoring prowess now, as yet again some decent approach play was nullified by the lack of a cutting edge.
As children in Sunday School we used to sing ‘Tell me the old, old story,’ and perhaps the poetic among us may be inclined to re-work the words of that old children’s hymn, because as has been the case so often the Wrens’ solid defence and improving midfield saw their work undone at the sharp end.
Indeed anyone who saw the expression on skipper Steve Kennedy’s face as he trooped off at the end will not need to read this match report—it was etched on his features far more artistically than anything that could appear on this or any other printed page.
It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort up front—in particular Kyle Gee-Pemberton ran himself into the ground until having to be withdrawn through injury, and Lavell White’s close control also caused the home defence some problems.
But spare a thought for Craig Mitchell who never gives less than 100 per cent—sadly he underwent one of those nights when everything he touched had the opposite effect of old Midas. And the harder he tried the worse it got for him.
It did not help that the Wrens were without Sean Cann and Danny Simpson, both injured against Belper on Saturday, and also Danny Bacon away on a course connected with his work.
But however heroically keeper Joe McCormack and his defence perform, they cannot remain impregnable for 90 minutes week after week after week while the end product at the front end continues to be lacking.
The players and management are every bit as aware of that fact as are the faithful fans, and the management must be asking themselves what more they can do to find a goal from somewhere, anywhere.
For, make no mistake, the only difference between league leaders Sheffield and Rainworth was that bite in attack.
In the end Rainworth were undone by two excellent goals, the first on the half-hour mark when Ashley Longstaff landed a glorious shot on the turn from the edge of the area, which went in off the underside of the bar.
Rainworth had been far from outplayed, but given their scoring record they were confronted with a mountain when they conceded a second goal to substitute Matt Glass less than two minutes into the restart.
In the end they were grateful to keeper McCormack for an excellent save of Andy Gascoigne’s 88th minute spot kick after a challenge by Lee Briggs was deemed by referee Steve Meredith to be unfair.
And in those closing stages the crossbar also came to the rescue three times in quick succession.
And although Rainworth’s cast-iron penalty claims for blatant hands in the third minute of added time went unheeded by Mr Meredith, at that stage a goal would have had no more than consolation value—had it indeed been scored.
Mitchell’s ill-luck manifested itself in only the third minute when his 18-yard effort flashed wide, and then Ian Clarke aimed a direct free kick way too high.
As the Wrens’ lively opening against the leaders continued Gee-Pemberton left home skipper Matt Varley chasing shadows, but when his quick ball reached Mitchell in the inside-right position the finish again failed to trouble Dan Whatsize in the Sheffield goal.
Tommy Hannigan, who alongside Kennedy was immense at the heart of the Rainworth defence, did well to get his body in the way of a vicious Longstaff effort, and then Kennedy was quick to whip the ball off the feet of Conor Higginson as he shaped to shoot, with Sheffield hitting back.
In the 11th minute Gee-Pemberton was brought down in full flight on the left by Steve Woolley who fell awkwardly and injured his knee as a result of his own challenge, ultimately being stretchered off, but not before the sight of a yellow card for his pains.
Lee Briggs blocked Ben Turner’s cross shot in the next Sheffield attack before Gee-Pemberton saw a good shot well saved, then Mitchell was again unlucky, firing wide when put clear in the left of the area.
Another whipped cross from Gee-Pemberton found no takers, and back at the other end, after Hannigan had again got in the way of another Longstaff blockbuster the Sheffield striker headed wide of the back post from the resulting corner.
McCormack was brought into action to save from Jamie Hadfield, but was beaten on the half-hour by Longstaff’s excellent strike.
Then a rare error by Briggs just before the break let in Longstaff, but the young defender atoned by dropping back well to get in the way of the shot. It went for a throw from which McCormack again saved well to deny Gascoigne.
Mitchell and Matt Varley were both booked following a clash right at the end of the half.
Two minutes into the restart it was Mitchell’s miscued pass which enabled Higginson to find Turner on the right. He released substitute Matt Glass, who lashed home a glorious angled shot which gave McCormack no chance.
Despite the immense task facing them Rainworth refused to lie down, and after Kennedy found no direction with his header onto Clarke’s well-placed free kick, a lovely lay-off by Clarke gave Mitchell yet another chance, and yet again he couldn't find the important eight-yard width.
Briggs hacked the ball off the Rainworth line during a melee at the other end, but the Wrens continued to press only to find no end product. And when the lively Gee-Pemberton was forced to limp off , with him effectively went any remaining hope of a comeback, although his replacement Carl Spencer also showed his willingness to run at the home side.
Cameron Fearon was wisely withdrawn in the 72nd minute after a booking presumably for persistent misconduct.
Ricky Hanson’s persistence kept in Spencer’s deep cross but his shot was blocked, and in an action replay shortly afterwards Whatsize held onto Hanson’s effort.
But in the 88th minute as McCormack went down to hold Jonah Gosling’s cross Mr Meredith penalised Briggs for a foul challenge. However, McCormack threw himself to his right to turn away Gascoigne’s spot kick.
In added time both Gascoigne and Longstaff were deniked by the bar while McCormack saved well from Glass, before furious claims for a penalty by the visitors when Gosling handled in the area went unheeded.
SHEFFIELD: Whatsize, Turner, Woolley (Glass 16), Harrison, Varley, Hadfield, Gosling, Gascoigne, Longstaff, Higginson (Graham 75), Burgin (Barnett 77). Subs not used: Richardson, Roney.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Fearon (Paling 72), Briggs, Hannigan, Kennedy, Camm, White, Clarke, Mitchell (Cooksey 68), Gee-Pemberton (Spencer 62), Hanson. Subs not used: Timons, Carter.
REFEREE: Steve Meredith.
GOALS: Sheffield—Longstaff 30; Glass 47.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Joe McCormack.