RAINWORTH MW will go to Belper Town on Saturday seeking to make it three Evo-Stik NPL Division One South wins out of three.
The Wrens went top of the division on Tuesday night, albeit after only two matches, following up last Saturday’s opening day 2-1 win over Shepshed with a single goal smash and grab triumph at Grantham Town, thanks to Craig Mitchell’s 17th minute strike.
The reason for the early success, though, is undoubtedly down to a mean defence whose only slip-up so far has been a last gasp twice-deflected goal right at the end of the Shepshed game.
Rainworth lost in-form right back Rob Paling to injury in the warm-up before that game, but with Cameron Fearon reverting to his former position from central defence and Chris Timons stepping up into the middle in Fearon’s place, the Wrens’ rearguard has shown how well it can handle sustained pressure when it has to, as was the case at Grantham on Tuesday night.
Speaking immediately after the Grantham game, when the satisfying effect of the evening’s other results was still not known, coach Darren Kelk was unstinting in his praise for the side, saying: “Everyone was given their job to do and they were first class in the way they carried it out.
“We know the make-up of Grantham. Last year we played them twice, they get the ball from back to front very quickly and commit players forward, but we told the boys to stick to their jobs, not to let runners get past them, and we would take the aerial battles all day.
“Every player defended well from the front line right through to the back. We came away to Grantham thinking it would be a tough task in midweek but every one of the boys did fabulously well.”
It was Rainworth’s second win at the South Kesteven Stadium since joining the Evo-Stik NPL, and although it seems to be turning into a lucky ground for them, Kelk admitted that second time around it was much more difficult.
But he added: “Sometimes you go to games and win ugly, and perhaps we won ugly tonight. Was it smash and grab? Maybe, but football is all about scoring goals, not about how much possession you have or how many headers you win, or whatever else.
“And in fairness to us we broke away twice at the end and created two very good chances which should have sealed the game for us.”
Looking forward to Saturday’s trip to Belper, when the Wrens will come up against a couple of last season’s Kirklington Road crowd favourites in Mark Camm and Tommy Hannigan, Kelk continued: “We wished both all the best when they left and thanked them for their huge contribution towards keeping us in this division, but some of our lads will want to prove a point to them on Saturday and show them what we are about this season.
“We had our difficult year last season but we have learned from it as a club. We’ll be working on certain things at training on Thursday which will take us nicely into the Saturday’s game.
“A result like tonight’s can’t fail to give you a boost and set you up for a local derby at Belper.
“We’ve made a great start to the season with two wins, but we’ve worked hard in pre-season to achieve it. We brought in a lot of new faces, and people may question why we have done so and replaced some of the popular players from last season, but the answer is that we can’t be finishing third from bottom again.
“We are a big enough club to mix it with the big boys of this league, and we want to show that we can do that.
“We’ve got a good strong squad when they are all fit, and by going on winning we will attract the better quality players to the club.”
Paling’s ankle injury means he looks likely to miss out against his former club on Saturday, while new striker Sean Cann, who signed from Lincoln United on the eve of the opening day, also picked up an injury at Grantham which could sideline him this weekend.
The Belper derby is followed on Tuesday by a visit from league new boys New Mills, who won the North West Counties League at something of a canter last season.
Meanwhile, Rainworth’s reserves will go into their opening fixture, at home to Dunkirk, on the back of a goalless draw against Thoresby CW in their final pre-season game on Tuesday night.