Rainworth MW will hope to turn the tables at Sheffield on Saturday after a controversial stoppage time goal gave Newcastle Town a 2-1 win and an Evo-Stik League Division One South double over the Wrens last weekend (action pictured above).
Two debatable refereeing decisions, which both went against his side, angered player-manager Scott Rickards, whose earlier free kick was deflected for an own goal to cancel out Castle’s half time lead.
The first of these came when Matt Varley’s header was thought by some, including Varley himself, to have been well over the line before it was cleared.
But worse was to follow for the Wrens when Sam Purcicoe, playing his last game for the club before following new Grantham Town joint boss Jimmy Albans to the Premier Division outfit, was dismissed for a ‘stoppage time ‘professional’ foul and Newcastle scored what was a superb winner direct from the resulting free kick.
Fumed Rickards: “As far as we were concerned we were robbed of a point by a refereeing decision that almost everyone else in the ground believed was wrong.
“It was 50-50, shoulder to shoulder, and Sam had a bit more pace which won him the challenge, so how that could be deemed not just unfair but a red card offence is beyond me, although I take nothing from the quality of the resulting free kick which gave Newcastle the winning goal.
“But considering we had the momentum for most of the second half, created most of the chances, including Matt Varley’s header which many thought had crossed the line before it was cleared, it made that late decision even more hard to take.”
However, Rickards was full of praise for the quality of football on offer from both sides, adding: “Newcastle were the best team we’ve played football wise, and it was refreshing to come up against a team that wanted to play football as opposed to relying on the physical side.
“We matched them in that too, and it was fantastic to be able to get such a great game on after the rain, so full credit also to everyone who worked to make it possible.”
Not for the first time this season, though, it was very late goals in each half which ultimately cost the Wrens the game.
“The timings of their goals were a disappointment, and showed again that we can’t afford to switch off as half or full time approaches,2 continued the manager. “We gave the ball away in their half and a quick counter attack gave them the lead right on half-time, and it was another breakaway which led to the incident and the winning goal in extra time. It’s something to be addressed, but I can’t knock any of the players for their overall performance.”
With Purcicoe now having left and skipper Callum Lloyd serving a one-match ban for an accumulation of cautions, Rickards will be hoping against hope that the injury picked up by leading scorer Ashley Longstaff will not be as bad as feared and that he will be able to line up at one of his former clubs, Sheffield, on Saturday.
Longstaff’s injury, however, did mean a chance for exciting youngster Liam Theakstone, who has been scoring goals for fun in the reserves.
As Rickards acknowledged, it is a huge step up in level from the reserves to the Evo-Stik League, but he added: “Liam has the quality to grow into it. He has a lot to look forward to and will make a good player at this level, given a bit more experience.”
Now, having just conceded their second league double of the season, Rickards is hoping that his side can turn the tables and achieve their first at Sheffield.
He ended: “We’ve beaten Sheffield at home this season but that doesn’t mean anything. We conceded a double to Newcastle, we don’t like that, but having had it done to us we now want to do it to Sheffield, pick up three points to keep the pressure on the teams above us, and avoid falling away to mid-table.”