What a difference a few goals make.
Rainworth made five changes from their midweek Doodson Cup defeat against Loughborough for today’s league game against Sheffield FC. This included a new strike force of Joe Flint and Ashley Longstaffe, with Jack Hawkins, Jason Gregory and Scott Rogers.
A lively start with both sides looking to take the initiative and it was Rainworth who had the first opportunity. It came in the 8th minute when Jack Hawkins found Ashley Longstaffe only for him to put his shot over the bar. Sheffield’s first opportunity came in the 13th minute when a long punt upfield found Jamie Hadfield but his header cleared the bar. This was a hard fought encounter with both sides contesting the every ball.
The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute when Joe Flint’s exquisite pass found Ashley Longstaffe whose shot found the top corner of the net to open the scoring. Rainworth continued to play most of the game in the Sheffield half and nearly increased their lead when Jamie Annerson dawdled on the ball and Joe Flint’s block almost found the net. A minute later a moment of controversy when Annerson and Longstaffe were deemed to have both contested the ball at the same time and Longstaffe netted the loose ball.
With a 2-0 lead Rainworth started to relax and Sheffield came back into the game when Stuart Ludlam found James Gregory whose shot just went the wrong side of the post. The 49th minute saw Rainworth clear the ball to the edge of their area only to see Steve Woolley’s shot just clear the crossbar. It was Rainworth who had the last chance of the half when a brilliant Adam Murray ball found Sam Saunders only for the ball to go the wrong side of the crossbar.
The second half started with Rainworth once again on the attack and Mark Dudley’s cross was met by Longstaffe only to see his effort cleared off the line. The game was now end to end and Andy Gascoigne made room, but his shot was well dealt with by James Martin. Still Sheffield probed and Martin had to be alert to deal with Zeph Thomas’s shot. Rainworth were still finding time to attack and Dudley’s fine cross was just headed wide by Longstaffe. The 59th minute was to see Sheffield reduce the arrears has Thomas pounced on a free kick that Rainworth failed to clear.
In the 61st minute Danny Buttle came on from Hawkins and in the 66th minute from his cross only a brilliant save by Annerson denied Longstaffe his hat-trick. In the 70th minute Longstaffe created himself yet another opportunity but his shot was well over. Rainworth made another substitution with Scott Rogers coming on for Flint, but it was Sheffield who nearly scored when Thomas headed over the bar.
In the 83rd minute Longstaffe once again caused Sheffield a problem as he found space for himself and only a brilliant Annerson save prevented him scoring. Rainworth were not to be denied and in the 85th minute Longstaffe turned provider when his excellent ball was put into the net by Callum Lloyd. Sheffield nearly pulled one back when substitute Joel Purkiss was left unmarked, but his shot was well saved by Martin. Rainworth had the last chance of the game as Longstaffe found Buttle, another excellent save by Annerson but the ball fell to Hanson, but with an empty net he managed to put his shot wide. The final whistle went with Rainworth deservedly winner’s 3-1.
After the game Rainworth must be pondering what would have happened if Ashley Longstaffe had played in the Newcastle and Brigg games when goal scoring had been so patently lacking. It was a debut to remember and but for Annerson’s brilliant goal keeping display he would surely have got the hat-trick his man of the match display deserved. It would however be wrong just to praise one player, this was a team effort and only Annerson’s magnificent goal keeping prevented them scoring more goals.
Have Rainworth at long last solved the conundrum of the ‘Missing goals’?
RAINWORTH: Martin; Gregory; Dudley; Lloyd; Varley; Saunders; Hanson; Murray; Longstaffe; Flint (Rogers 73); Hawkins (Buttle 61) Subs (not used); Brown; Cullingworth; Walker.
Referee: Mr. Christopher Akers.
Man of match; Ashley Longstaffe