Rainworth again prove to be bogey side for leaders Leek

Rainworth MW once again proved to be Leek Town’s bogey side as they won 1-0 away to the Evo-Stik Division One South leaders with a late goal on Saturday.

Rainworth have now played Leek seven times in the Evo-Stik leagues and have lost only one, winning five.

Earlier in the season Rainworth entertained Brigg Town, who were bottom of the league with no wins and no points. They dominated every statistic but goals scored and promptly lost.

On Saturday they visited a table-topping Leek side who had only lost one game this season, and that away, their home form reading played eight, won seven and drawn one.

It looked a home banker, but where Rainworth are involved, there is no such thing as certain as they battled for the full 90 minutes and came out winners.

The Leek pitch is not one of the better surfaces in the league and Saturday was no exception.

It took eight minutes for either side to get a shot on goal, and Mark Dudley’s effort flew high and wide.

It took another 15 minutes for the next as, after a fine Rainworth move, Jamie Clarke shot just over the bar.

The only incident of note was Callum Lloyd’s booking in the 21st minute for delaying a free kick, a decision that was disputed by some of the Rainworth following.

Neither side could find their rhythm on the bumpy surface, but Leek nearly managed to score with their first attack of note in the 32nd minute.

Rainworth had managed to defend the first effort at the expense of a corner, but from the corner only a fine punch from James Martin prevented a score. The ball fell to Dan Shelley, whose shot cannoned off the post to safety.

That apart, neither side could gain the upper hand, although both tried to play football on a surface that gave no assistance.

The half-time whistle went with neither side able to break the deadlock in what was fast becoming a physical encounter.

The second half started with Rainworth on the attack and Dudley’s shot was well collected by the keeper.

Leek were trying to respond and, as the half progressed, picked up the pace and chances were starting to be created.

Although Rainworth were being pushed back they still posed a threat, and James Cullingworth’s free kick was just headed wide by Sam Saunders.

Quickly after this a fine Leek move had the crowd rising in anticipation of a goal, only for a fine Kieran Walker block to leave them deflated. Sam Saunders was shown a yellow card for his misjudged tackle during this attack.

Just as it looked like the home side would be the first to score, Rainworth quickly moved the ball forward as Matt Varley found Grant Ryan, and his cross was met by Jordan Ball, only for the keeper to save with his feet.

Leek continued to pile on the pressure, but a fine battling Rainworth rearguard thwarted their efforts to capitalise on their dominance.

Ashley Longstaffe replaced Grant Ryan and then Ricky Hanson for James Cullingworth as Rainworth replaced tired legs.

Leek’s Andrew Kinsey was the next to have a shot, but his effort was well gathered by Martin, and shortly afterwards Clarke was given a yellow card for persistent infringements.

Leek were now having the lion’s share of the play, but in the 89th minute a long ball found Longstaffe, who rode the defender’s challenge and struck his shot into the far corner of the net.

The stadium fell silent, apart from the Rainworth fans who couldn’t contain their joy.

Rainworth nearly added to this when, on the break, Ball beat a couple of men. But he tried it once too often and lost his footing, the ball running to the keeper.

There was just time for Rainworth to make their final substitution with Jason Gregory coming on for Dudley before the final whistle.

RAINWORTH: Martin; Walker; Dudley (Gregory 90); Lloyd; Varley; Saunders; Cullingworth (Hanson 78); Magee; Clarke; Ball; Ryan (Longstaffe 72). Subs not used: Hawkins; Rickards.

REFEREE: Oliver Bickle.