Pheasant's game to spoil Wrens' season end
STAMFORD substitute Joe Pheasant broke Rainworth hearts with an 88th-minute winner to end the Wrens’ season on a low note.
The Daniels had been on the recovery road after a long indifferent spell had ended their hopes of a place in the play-offs.
And their victory ended the Wrens’ last chance to complete a league double over any opponent, after they had shocked Tommy Brookbanks’ side 3-0 in December.
The game had a real end of season feel about it, although had Rainworth hung on to the lead provided them by Ant Lynam in the 18th minute they would have climbed one place in the league table above Lincoln United.
It was not to be, though, for within 10 minutes Bruno Holden had found an equaliser.
A repeat of the 1-1 draw with which Rainworth ended their away season last year looked on the cards, until Pheasant got his head onto a corner to ensure that it was Stamford who exited the campaign on a winning note while Rainworth’s season ended with two successive defeats.
The odds were stacked against Kevin Gee’s side from the start, with only one fit substitute, Rob Paling, available—and he was required shortly after the start of the second half when Danny Bacon had to be helped off with an ankle injury.
But there was at least one source of satisfaction for Gee and the band of travelling fans, with youngster Adam Burton, drafted in at left back for his first appearance in three months to the day, putting in an impeccable man of the match show.
There was little to excite the 229 crowd before Rainworth grabbed the lead. Scott Mooney had headed Tyrone Kirk’s cross straight at Alessandro Barcherini in the third minute, and after ‘Mr Reliable’ Mark Camm got in the way of Danny Brooks’ free kick in the 12th, Curtis Shaw broke clear for Rainworth to feed Lynam out on the right, but he curled his effort well wide of the far post.
Lynam had better luck though when he opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Again it stemmed from good work by Shaw, who dispossessed former Wrens favourite |Matt Baxter out on the left, made ground, cut in, and slipped the ball to his strike partner who hit home with glee.
Rainworth promised more in the 27th minute when Jermain Hollis found Lynam and ran on to meet the return pass. But Lynam was caught in two minds and the chance was lost.
A minute later Rainworth paid the price for some uncharacteristic lax defending. Skipper Steve Kennedy failed to cut out a through ball, the defence struggled to clear, and Holden created half a yard of space just inside the box to spear a low drive through a packed area and beyond the reach of the diving Barcherini.
That was a sign for the home side to step up the pace, and Rainworth began to come under some pressure. But their defence has certainly not been short of practice in such situations this season, and although Barcherini’s handling was spot on when called upon, he was rarely truly extended.
Meanwhile, in a now rare Rainworth sortie, Lynam’s fierce shot on the turn was deflected for a corner by the outstretched leg of Baxter.
As the first half entered added time Bacon tracked back to get in a superb challenge as David Staff blazed a path through the middle.
But the last chance of the half, right on the whistle, fell to Burton, who could not quite get his head onto a corner at the back post, when the minimum contact would have seen the Wrens turn round 2-1 up.
Within half a minute of the restart Bacon fell awkwardly in the centre circle and after treatment had to be helped off to be replaced by Paling.
And the substitute was soon in action, charging across his box to close down the dangerous Mooney.
But as with the first half, the second took a long time to get going, and it was not until the 67th minute that anything noteworthy occurred, when Kennedy determinedly headed Staff’s deep cross for a corner, from which Staff’s strong shot was well saved.
Seconds later Mooney’s curler was only just over the angle, and then Brooks was not far wide with a long range low drive from the left.
Lynam’s questionable acrobatics let him down in the 75th minute when he should have restored Rainworth’s lead from another astute cross by the busy Shaw, his attempted scissor-kick from six yards easily clearing the bar.
Ryan Goward went close with a 20-yard effort as Rainworth began to enjoy a spell on top, and then keeper Ross Whalin did well to punch Burton’s pinpoint centre off the head of Paling.
But it was heartbreak time for Rainworth in the 88th minute. Barcherini just got his fingers onto Holden’s blistering effort and Matt Plant cleared off the line, but from the ensuing corner Pheasant rose at the back post to head the winner and send the Daniels fans home happy.
STAMFORD: Whalin, Baxter, Brooks (Pheasant 78), Diuk, Whiley, Maddox, Holmes (Ghislanzoni 83), Staff, Holden, Moody, Kirk (Deane 21). Subs not used: Garton, Harvey.
RAINWORTH: Barcherini, Graham, Burton, Camm, Kennedy, Plant, Hollis, Bacon (Paling 48), Shaw, Lynam, Goward. Subs not used: Cooksey, Adams, Akers.
REFEREE: Danny Gratton of Stone, Staffordshire.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Adam Burton.