Skipper Kennedy makes it three wins in a row
CONFIDENT Rainworth made it a hat-trick of successive wins for the first time since their promotion to the Evo-Stik League in 2010.
In a fairly even contest overall, the on-song Wrens were just one Steve Kennedy goal better than Lincoln United, whose form has nosedived since player-manager Terry Fleming won the October award for Division One South manager of the month, culminating in a shock home defeat by next-to-bottom Shepshed a week earlier.
Kennedy headed home from a 40th-minute corner to seal the three points and lift Rainworth three places in the league table to 16th, also aided by a second successive clean sheet at the back, .
The difference in the new Kevin Gee era is that which ever line-up is selected they go out believing they are going to win, and success breeds success.
The gale did its best to ruin the afternoon’s entertainment for the crowd, but both sides rose far enough above it to ensure that the blustery conditions did not win.
In a surprising switch Gee gave Lee Cooksey a chance up front alongside Nathan Adams and Steve Akers, with Ant Lynam dropping to the bench. Many may also have been surprised to see the inclusion of Joe McCormack in goal after he suffered a broken middle finger a week earlier at Brigg. But, aided by a new pair of specialist protective gloves he came through a fitness test. So Mark Hales who, having announced his retirement at the end of last season, had returned to Rainworth after signing as cover during the week, was content to sit on the bench, just in case.
Rainworth played into the elements in the first half, and Cooksey was soon digging out at the back to clear Jack McGovern’s free kick from inside the area, while at the other end Kennedy’s set piece played into the inside left position found Adams who saw his first time shot cannon to safety off former Mansfield defender Stuart Reddington.
Adams controlled Ricky Hanson’s throw in to flash a 20-yard rocket narrowly wide in the 12th minute, but three minutes later McCormack won an important race to the ball against former Wren George Zuerner on the edge of his area.
Kallum Smith, always prominent pushing forward for United, cut out the low cross at the end of a sparkling run by Adams with Akers lurking at the far post, and with Rainworth continuing to make light of the adverse conditions, another strong run by Hanson on the right produced a deep cross to Adams whose header was cleared off the line by Sean Wright.
As play switched to the other end McCormack needed two attempts before clawing the ball off the feet of Garrick, but it was Rainworth who forged ahead in the 40th minute.
Good work by Cooksey enabled him to find Adams whose drive was partially blocked, and Danny Bacon won the corner. Reddington cleared that one off the line for a second flag kick from which Hanson’s far post cross was met by the head of the leaping Kennedy for the skipper’s first goal for the club.
Lincoln responded by winning a couple of corners of their own shortly before the break, from the second of which Tommy Hannigan picked up what initially looked a worrying injury, leaving the Wrens to play out most of the rest of the half with 10 men.
The second half was rather slow to get going, but with the wind at their backs the Wrens went looking to build on their lead, but Lincoln had bodies behind the ball to block Ian Clarke’s shot and Adams’ follow-up.
Reddington’s determined challenge halted Adams’ jinking run in from the left, and then Clarke whistled a 30-yard howitzer narrowly wide and Bacon’s effort from distance was straight at Phil McGann.
More fine work by Adams set up another corner which Reddington almost headed into his own goal and was a relieved man to see it drop just the right side of the post from his point of view. The ensuing second corner saw Clarke’s header stopped on the line.
Lynam replaced Cooksey in the 63rd minute and was almost immediately fouled, getting up to lash his low 25-yard free kick a whisker wide.
But for some reason the home defence began to sit increasingly deep despite the wind at their backs, inviting Lincoln to come at them.
And when McGovern’s long 70th minute free kick from the left bounced unexpectedly high in the box McCormack had to go full stretch upwards to turn it over his bar.
A minute later Garrick wasted Lincoln’s best chance, steering a free header onto Chris Funnell’s accurate cross wide of a gaping net.
And when Wright arrived to sweep a long free kick wide, otherwise excellent referee Adam Burgess gave a corner, apparently in the mistaken belief that McCormack had got a hand to it.
From there on, despite four added minutes, the Rainworth defence performed another shut-out, although their habit of dropping deeper late on is one which, despite the new-found confidence, still gives their fans a few heart flutters.
Any one of the back five, along with Adams up front, was a candidate for man of the match, but Hanson nicked the press nomination, not putting a foot wrong at right wing back, whether defending or going forward.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Hanson, Carter, Hannigan, Camm, Kennedy, Clarke, Bacon, Adams, Cooksey (Lynam 63), Akers (Spargo 74). Subs not used: Fearon, Gee-Pemberton, Hales.
LINCOLN UNITED: McGann, Coyde, Smith, Bull, Reddington, Wright, McGovern (McDaid 81), Zuerner (Fleming 87), Funnell, Garrick, Coupland (Leverett 80). Subs not used: Cotton, Davies.
REFEREE: Adam Burgess of Sheffield.
GOAL: Rainworth—Kennedy 40.
CAUTIONS: Lincoln—McGovern 52 (foul on Akers); Bull 76 (dissent).
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Ricky Hanson. Lincoln—Kallum Smith.