Battling Rainworth bow out at the death
Evo-Stik League Challenge Cup round I
Rainworth MW 3 Barwell 4 (aet)
Report by Gordon Foster
FOR the second time in three Tuesday nights Rainworth exited a cup competition after conceding late in extra time, as league leaders Barwell edged through to a second round League Cup tie against Spalding United.
But it was a much improved display by the Wrens, and a see-saw contest provided superb entertainment for the frozen few who turned up on a bitterly cold night rather than staying in to watch televised football.
Jamie Towers provided the Kirkby Roaders with a 23rd-minute lead which lasted just four minutes before Matt Draper equalised for Rainworth, then Matt Baxter’s spectacular 34th minute shot gave the Wrens the interval advantage.
The only goal of the second half came from Lewis Dodd for Barwell, who then regained the lead through Jerome Murdock six minutes into the extra half-hour.
Lee Wilkinson, coming off the bench on his return from injury, scored a superb equaliser midway through the second period but, as against Sheffield in the FA Trophy a fortnight earlier, just when it seemed that the game was destined for a spot kick shoot out, the opposition grabbed a last ditch 119th minute winner through Craig Dutton.
Barwell could have been forgiven for having one eye on Saturday’s massive FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at Conference North Droylsden, but they made no real concession to that tie and still sent a side not much different from that which had won 2-0 at Kirklington Road for league points in mid-September.
That game had marked their 60th consecutive league match unbeaten, a record which was finally ended on Saturday in a 1-0 defeat at Sutton Coldfield, and they will have been keen to travel to the Butchers Arms for the FA Cup tie on the back of a win.
Rainworth boss Rudy Funk, on the other hand, made changes, giving starts to keeper Sam Dobbs, Cameron Fearon, Lee Hunt and Aaron Moxam, and bringing back Ryan Carolan and Lewis Jackson from injury—ironically both picked up further knocks with Carolan’s return lasting just 11 minutes before suffering a hamstring pull.
But Funk was rightly immensely proud of his troops at the end, although bemoaning a couple of crucial defensive errors which gifted the visitors two goals, while the Wrens’ battling performance also drew high praise from Barwell’s new manager Paul O’Brien.
One could see, though, why O’Brien’s side are top of the league. They are strong, fit, quick, and move the ball around superbly well. Every player seems to know instinctively where every team mate is, and the side looks to have lost nothing after former boss Marcus Law moved on to Kettering Town, and O’Brien was promoted from number two to maintain and continue the successful formula.
Rainworth made a bright start, and Baxter’s second minute rising 25-yarder flew not far over the angle.
But in the 11th minute, as Scott Hadland’s angled ball into the home box caused a few problems at the back, Carolan pulled up in the melee and limped off, to be replaced four minutes later by Jermain Hollis.
Jamie Towers was proving something of a handful for the home defence as the game developed into a compelling contest, and after Moxam had sent a firm shot straight at Liam Castle who cleared upfield, it was Towers who put the visitors ahead in the 23rd minute, beating the offside to run on to Dodd’s through pass and go one on one with Dobbs before firing into the corner of the net.
Rainworth hit back strongly and Moxam had two shots blocked in quick succession before Draper equalised in the 27th minute. Home debutant Rob Paling launched a long throw from the left which was only helped on by a Barwell defender, and Draper was left with a simple task at the back post.
The same combination almost worked again in the 31st minute, this time from Paling’s curling free kick which the Wrens’ skipper headed straight at Castle.
But the home side were celebrating three minutes later. Julian Topliss laid off neatly to Baxter who let fly with a beautiful dipper from all of 35 yards which beat the Barwell keeper and dropped sweetly under the bar.
It might have been 3-1 in the 39th minute—Barwell skipper Nick Green didn’t know much about Topliss’ strong goalbound shot which struck him on the head and laid him out momentarily.
The second half took a while to get going, although Scott Lower was too high with an angled shot from the right for the visitors in the 51st minute, and Paling, at the heart of a fine build up by the Wrens, saw his shot from the edge of the box held.
Topliss volleyed a half-cleared free kick too high in the 61st minute, but four minutes later the visitors were level. Towers’ unchallenged run and deflected shot produced a corner which Dobbs palmed clear only as far as Dodd who rifled home through a busy area.
From then on the visitors increasingly took the upper hand and Rainworth dropped deeper, with Draper twice clearing off the line, denying first Dodd and then Wayne Dyer. But the Wrens rode the pressure and the extra half-hour ensued.
That was into its sixth minute when Barwell substitute Murdock appeared to catch Hunt in two minds, won possession, cut in from the left and hit a great shot into the far corner.
Matt Bailey came on for Barwell in the 102nd minute and hit the post with his first touch, but it was Rainworth sub Wilkinson who was next onto the score sheet in the 112th minute, lashing home when the Barwell defence struggled to clear a cross.
A great three man move involving Hollis, Topliss and Baxter could have provided a winner for any one of the three, but the first two failed to get in a shot and Baxter’s effort was charged down.
Instead it was Dutton who won it for the visitors in the 119th minute, turning the ball in at the far post to break Rainworth hearts.
RAINWORTH: Dobbs, Fearon, Carolan (Hollis 15), Alberry, Hunt, Draper, Baxter, Paling, Moxam (C. Hewitt 70), Topliss, Jackson (Wilkinson 86). Subs not used: Charlesworth, Hales.
BARWELL: Castle, Lower, Giddings, Green, Fraqncis, Hadland (Dutton 76), Towers, Dyer, Dodd (Bailey 102), Charley (Murdock 83), McDonald. Subs not used: Julien, Wykes.
REFEREE: Nigel Smith of New Tupton, Chesterfield.
GOALS: Rainworth—Draper 27; Baxter 34; Wilkinson 112. Barwell—Towers 23; Dodd 65; Murdock 96; Dutton 119.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth—Matt Draper; Barwell—Jamie Towers.