Wrens count the cost
Rainworth were left to count the cost of four key moments as they suffered a 2-0 home defeat by high-riding Clifton All Whites.
The Wrens paid a heavy price for an unlucky own goal, a blatant penalty not awarded, another penalty awarded but missed, and an uncharacteristic goalkeeping error.
But manager Lewis Saxby attributed his first defeat with the club to more than just those key issues, insisting that the overall performance left too much still to be desired.
“Yes, these were big moments,” he said afterwards. “We were a bit unlucky with the own goal, but it’s a blatant penalty on Aidy Harris and I don’t know how the referee can think anything else. The linesman tells him it’s a penalty and he still doesn’t give it. But at the same time we were nowhere near good enough today.
“Clifton are one of the best sides in the league, but on another day we might have taken a point or even three, but we’ve dropped three points which we need. We’ve got to be better than that to start picking points up and climbing the league.”
Clifton went into the game on the back of five wins in their last six, two of them by double figures, so this was clearly a test of Saxby’s new look side’s credentials after taking four points from the last two games.
And although they held the free scoring visitors two just two, it was not a test passed with flying colours, with too many balls going astray and possession conceded far too often, while Clifton showed just why they are on such a productive run of form.
Skipper Harris’ inclusion was a surprise after his injury a week earlier, but there was a scare in only the third minute when he went down again and needed treatment. Fortunately he was able to play on, and turned in a man of the match show marred only by his penalty miss.
The visitors had already had a couple of shots at goal before they were gifted a rather fortunate 14th minute lead. Josh Hollis appeared to have a shot on goal well covered, but it struck Shomari Doyle and looped over the keeper into the net.
Clifton largely called the tune in the first half but Rainworth were not without their chances and when the blue-shirted All Whites had penalty appeals, more in hope than expectation, turned down, Rainworth broke and Max Curzon saw a close range finish well saved by Jay Kirk, with a foul on the keeper in the aftermath ending that chance.
Six minutes later Connor Wright should have scored when a free kick was not cleared but skewered a great opening well wide. That though, was as good as it got for the Wrens before half time.
And they were grateful to Will Spray for a goal line clearance to deny Aaron Large, who sought to profit from Hollis’ full stretch tip aside. And it was Large again who was denied in the 35th minute, this time by Doyle’s block.
The second half continued where the first had left off, with another fine challenge from Spray as livewire Jahred Russell almost got clear, then Hollis was down to deflect Large’s shot to one side, with Craig Meakin’s follow up going behind off the outside of the near post.
From somewhere Rainworth found some fresh reserves, inspired by Harris, and in the 55th minute his mazy run into the box saw him blatantly brought down by keeper Kirk. It seems that the official had played an advantage when Harris had been fouled during his run in, and instead of awarding the penalty he brought play back for the initial offence, to the fury of the home side and the amazement of the visitors.
Jonathan Drake’s ensuing free kick from two yards outside the box just cleared the bar, but when Harris was unceremoniously dumped over 10 minutes later, this time the referee pointed straight to the spot. Unfortunately Harris’ spot kick was tame and Kirk was down to save easily.
The skipper almost made amends a minute later with a cross shot that flashed past the far post, but it was Clifton who were to seal the points in the 79th minute when Hollis failed to gather a cross from the left cleanly under pressure from Large who headed home from almost under the bar.
RAINWORTH: Hollis, Copestake, Doyle, Drake, Wright, Spray, Pursglove (Toon 84), Hutchinson (Davidson 63), Curzon, Harris, Jepson (Fowler 70). Subs not used: Henry, Taylor.
CLIFTON: Kirk, Reid, Price, Richardson, Ball, Williams, Meakin, Maddison, Large, Russell (Griggs 75), Blewitt. Subs not used: Smith, Kennerdale.
REFEREE: Wayne Mason.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Aidy Harris.