The anglers have a cliché for it ... ‘You should have seen the one that got away’.
In fact three—points that is, not fish—got away at the Raygar Stadium on Tuesday night as Rainworth reminded their fans of how far they have come in the last 12 months.
A year ago, in their second game of the season at Grantham, the Wrens had survived a 90-minute battering to come home with a smash and grab 1-0 win over the eventual champions.
This year, against relegated Mickleover, the boot was very much on the other foot, as Sports somehow held out in the face of a second half blitz to take the points courtesy of a rather fortunately awarded but brilliantly executed 43rd-minute free kick.
The Wrens had enjoyed the better possession of the opening period although it is fair to say that during that time the home side had created the better scoring opportunities.
But Rainworth’s luck was right out on the night—and not just from the incident which led to the goal. Skipper Mark Camm was the victim when an awkward bounce saw the ball rise and strike his arm just outside the area. There was little he could have done about it, but the free kick was awarded, and Danny Martin’s superbly flighted direct shot gave Joe McCormack no chance as it flew into the top corner.
Only seconds later Rainworth won a free kick in a similar position at the other end, but the luck deserted them again when Ryan Goward’s well-struck shot crashed down off the underside of the bar without crossing the line.
The Wrens had surprised their hosts with the quality of their passing football in the first half. Camm, Lee Cooksey and Adam Burton had dealt more than competently with almost anything the home side could throw at them, while Goward and man of the match Kieran Walker not only performed their defensive duties admirably but also caused the home side all sorts of problems as they pushed forward along their respective flanks.
Meanwhile the midfield continued to play creative football, while the front men worked hard, livewire Blair Anderson in particular keeping the home defence’s hands full.
Yet Walker’s line clearance in the 14th minute when Shaun Smith’s tricky shot wriggled free of McCormack, and Alex Steadman’s too-high volley in the 37th from a great chance, had kept Rainworth level, while three minutes later at the opposite end Anderson and Ian Holmes were both unlucky as John Guy cleared off the home line.
After the break it was one way traffic on the home goal, but somehow Mickleover survived the battering.
They were aided by referee Ian Hurdle, who leniently showed Dominic Allen only a yellow card for hauling down Anderson from behind as last man, after the fleet-footed teenager had shrugged off the defender from Ian Holmes’ neat chip over him. There was a clear goalscoring opportunity and Allen was a fortunate man indeed at that point, although his own personal good fortune ran out when he later succumbed to injury.
Meanwhile Sports were reduced to time wasting and pulling bodies back behind the ball, while keeper Damian Clarke produced some unorthodox if effective saves when called upon, and some of the Wrens’ finishing was off target too—on a couple of occasions the visiting fans were out of their seats to acclaim the equaliser only to see the ball flash wide, substitute Ewan Clarke twice unlucky in this respect.
It was one of those nights when it was not to be, but Rainworth must take heart from this performance, for if they reproduce this through the season, while they may not emulate Grantham’s bounce-back and take the title, they will certainly win more than they lose.
MICKLEOVER: D. Clarke, Allen (Ritchie-Smith 65), Guy, Martin, Wood, Grocott, Smythe (Simpson 90), Munn, Ashton, Smith (Domachowski 77), Steadman. Not used: Whiteley.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Walker, Goward, Camm, Cooksey, Burton, Lloyd, J. Holmes (Payne 85), I. Holmes, Bacon (E. Clarke 74), Anderson (Spargo 82). Not used: West, Barcherini.
REFEREE: Ian Hurdle.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Kieran Walker.