RAINWORTH MW will kick off their second Evi-Stik NPL Division One South campaign against Shepshed Dynamo on Saturday in great heart.
The Wrens gave themselves a huge boost in last Saturday’s final warm-up game when they held Blue Square Bet Premier new boys Alfreton Town to a 1-1 draw – a result which went a long way to erasing the memory of a shock 4-0 home defeat by NCEL Long Eaton the previous Tuesday.
And joint manager Lee Wilkinson could afford himself a satisfied smile as he said afterwards: “I told you so!”
For Wilkinson had predicted after the Long Eaton game that the home fans would see a much better Rainworth side taking on Nicky Law’s Reds than that which was humiliated by Long Eaton.
Wilkinson’s co-manager Billy Millar agreed, and pointed out: “We did much better against Alfreton with the settled side that is more likely to be playing Evo-Stik football than that which we put out against Long Eaton.
“But that is what pre-season games are all about. Long Eaton gave us a kick up the posterior, and we knew that if we had played in the same way on Saturday Alfreton would have declared at half time.
“We made the changes we needed to make, and the lads rolled up their sleeves and worked a lot harder, and they were well worth a draw against a team from three leagues above.
“We expected Alfreton to be big and strong, and they were, but when they started to play their football in the second half they looked a decent side.
“For us, it was important that we fielded a team as close as possible as that which will start against Shepshed. It was a team that would have done well in any of the pre-season games, but you can’t play the same 11 all through pre-season, because you would learn nothing and achieve nothing.
“It was a great result against Alfreton to take into our first league match, and was a moral victory for us.”
The Shepshed game should be spiced up by the fact that both sides are likely to contain players who will be facing the team they played for last season.
The Leicestershire outfit, reprieved from relegation last season as a result of the knock-on of the demise of Conference side Rushden and Diamonds, have taken ex-Wren Julian Topliss, while for Rainworth goalkeeper Gavin Saxby, who signed this week after the Alfreton game, could be joined by fellow ex-Shepshed men Joe Carter, Adam Jones and Ricky Hanson.
Wrens goalscorer Lavell White, who was with Carlton Town last season, has also put pen to paper.
Looking forward to the Shepshed game, Wilkinson predicted a tough encounter against the side now managed by former Hucknall Town boss John Ramshaw.
He said: “John will be away coaching in America, but his team will be big and strong and will play to his pattern.
“They will try to get the ball forward as early as possible, but we have the defenders who can play against both the big lads and the fast lads and deal with that, as they showed against Alfreton.
“We have a midfield who can pass the ball around, and we are capable of creating chances up front.”
Meanwhile Millar did not rule out the possibility of at least one new front player coming on board in time to figure on Saturday to boost the chances to goals ratio.
The Wrens then make their first away trip of the season on Tuesday to Grantham Town, where the Gingerbreads will be out to avenge their 3-1 defeat by the Wrens at the South Kesteven Stadium last season – a result which almost cost Town their place in the Play-offs.