TWO 2-0 defeats in four days have continued Rainworth’s miserable run in Evo-Stik NPL Division One South, despite a continuing upturn in performance levels.
But the Wrens remain unable to find the net with any degree of regularity to reward that upturn as some decent approach play continues to break down in the final third of the field.
It is a problem which joint manager Billy Millar finds bemusing and frustrating, after Saturday’s home defeat by Belper Town was followed up on Tuesday with another loss at league leaders Sheffield, both clubs completing a league double over the Wrens.
Speaking after Tuesday’s match, Millar praised the side’s battling qualities but at the same time described the number of wasted chances as ‘scandalous’ and questioned whether there was anything else this season that could go wrong that hasn’t already done so.
At the back and increasingly in midfield Rainworth are on a par with almost anyone in the division, but the fact that they have still only scored five goals in 12 league matches – and one of them from the penalty spot – is indication enough as to why they are hovering just above the relegation zone.
Millar insisted: “You’ve got to give the lads credit, they battle and battle on.
“On Saturday we played all but the first 12 minutes with 10 men after skipper Steve Kennedy was sent off for a ‘professional’ foul, and, although it’s often hard to play against 10, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a side down to 10 men battle as hard as we did.
“In that intense heat the lads were magnificent, and even when injury cut us down to nine for the final 12 minutes or so when we had used all our substitutes we still kept plugging away.
“Joe McCormack saved the penalty which resulted from the sending off, but Belper were allowed a re-take which they scored, and yet he did nothing then that he didn’t do when saving another penalty at Sheffield on Tuesday.
“And it was when were down to nine and tired legs took their toll that we conceded a second goal right at the end.”
Millar added: “To be honest I think we created more chances against Sheffield, and the only difference between ourselves and the side at the top of the league was in finishing. You’ve got to learn to hit the target, but we never tested their keeper.
“Conversely they scored two very good goals which I expect our strikers to do.”Prior to them going in front we created four decent shooting opportunities and did nothing with them. The number of chances we have that go begging is scandalous.
“Lee (joint manager Lee Wilkinson) and I are trying to move heaven and earth to solve the problem, and we’ve more or less permanently got seven day notices in for players, and especially strikers who can change things for us.
“It didn’t help at Sheffield that Sean Cann and Danny Simpson were both out injured again and Danny Bacon was away on a course connected with his work, but its frustrating for the lads to see their hard work and good play go to waste through lack of goals, and it’s my and Lee’s job to try to keep their spirits up.
“We can’t go in and criticise the players when, overall, they are not playing at all badly – if they were I would be the first to have a go at them.
“We were denied a cast iron penalty late on for hands at Sheffield which everyone but the referee and his assistant saw, but that’s what happens when you are struggling.
“OK, if we’d scored from the spot we would still have lost, but we would at least have had a boost.”
This weekend the Wrens take a welcome break from league action and face one of Millar’s former clubs, local rivals Hucknall Town, in the FA Trophy.
Hucknall have already beaten Rainworth 1-0 at Watnall Road for league points, when once again it was a match the Wrens should have won but for their lack of a cutting edge.
Cann and Bacon should be back in contention, but Millar is hoping that he can secure the release of two other strikers from their current clubs without the need for a seven day notice to enable them also to figure against Hucknall.