Kitchen stunner keeps Kirklington Road 'Indian sign' over Leek
TWENTY-FOUR hours after announcing that they were to leave the Evo-Stik NPL at the end of the season, Rainworth achieved their highest league points tally since their promotion to Division One South.
The match was settled by a single Ashley Kitchen goal two minutes before the break—an absolute screamer which lit up what had been a fairly mundane first half. Kitchen received Jared Holmes’ astute pass wide on the right and gave Town keeper Ben Chapman no chance.
Leek upped the tempo after the interval with a strengthening wind at their backs, and in the end it was veteran emergency signing goalkeeper Neil West who kept them at bay with a string of excellent stops which saw him edge man of the match despite Kitchen’s wonder goal and an inspirational captain’s performance by the ever reliable Mark Camm.
Meanwhile up front Kieran Wells and substitute Adam Somes, after his 19th-minute introduction, showed an appetite-whetting potential to develop into an exciting partnership as the game went on.
It was only the Wrens’ third league win of 2013 after what had been a wonderful first half of the season, but it meant that ex-Conference club Leek had not managed to take a single point off the Wrens during the hosts’ three seasons in the division.
The visitors may have slightly edged possession in the first half but, in the style of so many Rainworth performances this season, they lacked the cutting edge where it mattered, and it was the Wrens who created the better chances of the first half.
In only the second minute surging run down the left enabled him to set up Ryan Goward for a rising shot that took a deflection over the angle, as Rainworth made the brighter start.
Damian Magee stretched up to manage just enough of a deflecting header onto Matt Bell’s cross with Tim Grice ready to snap up any sniff of a chance.
Ricky Hanson, who had suffered a knock in a foul challenge, was substituted by Somes in the 19th minute causing a reorganization in the home ranks, and while they were re-settling, West stretched to tip away a probing cross away from Leek skipper Anthony Danylyk.
But the last 20 minutes of the half belonged to Rainworth, with Wells beating both keeper and bar, Somes unable to capitlise when Chapman spilled a Goward shot at his feet, and then Somes aiming too high when the referee played a sensible advantage after Wells was tripped.
So the goal, when it arrived two minutes before the break, was well deserved, and well worth the wait as the Wrens turned round that one goal to the good.
There remained a sense of foreboding in the second half, for in the two previous league games Rainworth had scored first and lost, and indeed there were signs of Leek stepping up a gear when, in quick succession 10 minutes in, Magee blocked superbly from Andy Kinsey with West doing very well to save Dan Shelley’s follow-up, then Kieran Walker making an exceptional challenge to deny Grice a shot at goal.
Rainworth responded with a couple of good spells of possession and passing football, albeit without looking like adding to their lead and killing the game off.
Grice should have done better with a free glancing header from a corner than to place it wide from close in the 72nd minute, and the striker just lost out on a race for the ball with keeper West as the contest entered its final 10 minutes.
Rainworth were beginning to look increasingly vulnerable as the visitors poured forward in a bid to rescue something, but West was to come up with one more win-preserving save two minutes from time with a fine blocking stop from Kinsey’s effort.
RAINWORTH: West, Hanson (Somes 19), Goward, Camm, Walker, Magee, Lloyd, Kitchen, Wells, J. Holmes, Watson. Subs not used: Claxton, Bacon.
LEEK: Chapman, Smith, Bell, Thomas (Mellor 75), Bradbury, Hall, Morris (Brannan 57), Shelley, Grice, Kinsey, Danylyk. Sub not used: Connor.
REFEREE: Tommy Hollidge of Leicester. ATTENDANCE: 56.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil West.