WITH all his set targets now achieved, manager Kevin Gee is looking to end Rainworth MW’s second Evo-Stik NPL Division One South season on a high.
After taking four points from their Easter weekend matches, the Wrens surpassed last season’s points total of 40, and virtually made sure of finishing higher that last season’s 20th place, although mathematically they still need one more point from their remaining two games to be absolutely certain.
At Market Drayton on Easter Saturday the Wrens sustained some heavy pressure and, until the final quarter of the match, looked second best before falling behind to a team which was unbeaten in four games.
But Rainworth rallied, equalised through a Curtis Shaw penalty, and in the end could have won it as they laid siege to the home goal.
That was their third successive 1-1 draw, and it looked as if a fourth was on the way as Monday’s local derby against Carlton Town entered stoppage time. But then Ant Lynam popped up with the winner in the second of three added minutes to put a dent in the Millers’ hopes of finishing second and having home advantage in both the semi-final and, if they get there, the final of the promotion play-offs.
Sammy MacVicar had put the Millers ahead inside the first three minutes, but after an even first half the Wrens had the better of the second, with Jermain Hollis scoring a brilliant equaliser against his former club before Lynam’s late strike sealed it.
Speaking after the match, Gee said: “We had our game plan, and it looked to be out of the window in the first three minutes, but the lads stuck to it and there was only one likely winner in the second half.
“But Carlton are a very good side, they are in the play-offs and fighting for second place, so that and the fact that it was a local derby made it a great result for us.
“When I arrived at Rainworth I set a target of topping the 40 points achieved last season. We’ve now passed that and gone up to 18th, so now we are two points from overhauling Lincoln United to go up one more place with two games to go.
“I was particularly pleased for the lads because we played the same way as we had played at Ilkeston, which I think was one of our best performances although we got no reward. This time we got the breaks and the points.
“The supporters are starting to understand that in the position we have been in it’s all about winning games and getting out of trouble, which we have now done.
It’s hasn’t always been pretty, but it is points won when we have not played particularly well that have kept us up.
“It’s nice to have a feel-good factor as the season draws to its end. The expectation when I arrived in November was that we would stay up, and we had a few good results, then it went a bit flat, but we started to grind out a few points when our style was not particularly pleasing to the eye.
“As a group we are still learning – I am still learning, because when you arrive at a club which is at a low ebb in mid-season you don’t get much time to instil your own ideas on man management. But the players are accepting and buying into my standards and beliefs in tactics and strategies to win games.
“And another plus is our strength in depth, which is much better now than when I came, so that we are seeing players coming off the bench and making an impact.”
On Saturday the Wrens bring down the curtain on their home season when Newcastle Town are the visitors. It is only two and a half weeks since they drew 1-1 at the Aspire Stadium, in a match which illustrated Gee’s point about taking something from a game when you haven’t played well.
Gee added: “From the supporters’ point of view it was a good point, but there were certain things there which we did not do right. It’s all very well picking up a draw on your travels, but you have to win your home games, and this is a winnable match for us, especially if we apply ourselves as we did against Carlton.”
After that the Wrens will end their season on Saturday week when they visit Stamford. The Daniels, managed by Gee’s great friend Tommy Brookbanks, have looked like play-off material all season, but have fallen away lately and their chance now seems to have gone.
But Rainworth turned in one of their best performances of the season at home to Stamford to win 3-0, so the Daniels will surely want to prove a point.