RAINWORTH MW’s last hope of silverware may have disappeared with Wednesday night’s shock Notts Senior Cup 2-0 semi-final defeat at Central Midlands outfit Sutton Town, but manager Kevin Gee insists that there is still something to be achieved as the Wrens go into their final five Evo-Stik NPL Division One South games of the current campaign.
A Snipes side which included seven ex-Wrens in their starting line-up and two more on the bench were always going to provide a potential banana skin, and so it proved as Rainworth’s overwhelming first half superiority counted for nothing when they failed to turn it into goals.
That gave Sutton the incentive to take Rainworth on with the aid of the slope in the second half, and after ex-Wren Chris Hewitt had capitalised on his old club’s failure to clear their lines in the 55th minute, it was Hewitt again whose shot was deflected into his own net past stand-in keeper Mark Camm by Kieran Walker.
Hopes may have been raised of a second chance when the floodlights failed four minutes from time, but after an eight-minute delay they were restored, and the lights went out instead on the chance of an all-Evo-Stik League final against Carlton Town.
Now, with five matches remaining, Rainworth’s last remaining target is to post their best points tally since their promotion to the Evo-Stik League three years ago. They still need two points to achieve that, but four of those last five games are at home, starting on Saturday against Leek Town.
After the cup defeat, Gee said: “ We knew what tonight was going to be about with such a huge prize at stake for the winners, and when you add into the mix a local derby and so many ex -players in the Sutton team in a one-off game we would have to be respectful of the opposition and prepare the same as we would for an Evo-Stik game.
“Obviously losing Alle (goalkeeper Alessandro Barcherini) in the warm-up was frustrating, but we already knew what the team shape was going to be if that happened, and I don’t think Mark going in goal had any bearing on the result whatsoever. I thought he was magnificent and kicked consistently well too.
“We knew, with that situation in mind, how important discipline and organisation would be in both boxes and, to be fair, defensively I thought we did well from all first phase situations.
“But it was the creativity that let us down tonight, especially as we controlled the whole of the first half and just had to concentrate on any counter attacks from Sutton with only one up front.
“We did have two goals disallowed, the first one rightly so for offside, but the second one for an unnecessary foul that wasn’t affecting the situation and the resulting headed goal was chalked off as a result.
“However, the best chance of the game came with minutes to go before the interval and you wouldn’t want a free strike at goal from eight yards to fall to anyone other than Ian Holmes, so it was a bit disbelieving when he blasted over the bar and another chance passed us by.
“Games change on moments like these, and with the turnaround level and Sutton with the slope advantage in the second half you know that the opposition will have a period of play that puts you under pressure.
“So you have to stay focused and keep a good shape out of possession which we didn’t do well enough for the first 15 minutes of the half. And, with Sutton’s midfield three starting to control the middle third we were finding it increasingly difficult to get out. Then the goal came that we could have dealt better with, which gave them the ascendancy to keep their impressive work rate up.”
He added: “ Obviously the second goal sapped a lot of positive energy out of us but for the last 20 minutes we did have probably four half chances but again, other than Ian Holmes strike, we didn’t work their keeper enough .
“So I have to take one on the chin as manager and accept full responsibility for the defeat. But I’ve been in the game long enough to lose gracefully as well. So you have to congratulate Dean Short and all associated with Sutton Town, and wish them all the success in the final, which I have done.
“We have five league games left now, all against top 10 sides, so it is a difficult run in for us. But four are at home, so we will embrace that and try to achieve as many points as we can, and continue to move the club forward by working hard on the training pitch.
“The second half of the season has been a little disappointing for all associated at the club, especially having been on the fringe of the play-offs at Christmas - and looking at the statistics the second half of the season is probably worse than my first season when I took over.
“But with one point less than our overall position last year, we knew that one more win will ensure another landmark of our highest points tally and league position than last year. In an ideal world you would always like to be on the front foot but that is not always going to happen.”
Gee concluded: “Recruitment this year has been disappointing and in some cases they just haven’t delivered, but that’s down to myself and I’m big enough to accept that, but we will continue to work hard and put right.
“We have a young group of developing players in our reserves that now need to gain valuable experience over the remaining part of the season at this level so I will looking to bring a few of them through now ready for next year.
“The club have been starved of success since moving up to the Evo-Stik league over the last three years which I know for our fantastic supporters has been difficult to adapt to, due to their previous success on the way up to this level.
“But the club should be proud of its achievements over the last 10 years, and the facilities at the club are now as good as any in the Evo-Stik League.”