RAINWORTH slid into the dreaded relegation zone on Saturday, and need to look no further than into the mirror for the reason.
The Wrens were authors of their own misfortune after tamely allowing visitors Lincoln United to overturn a 1-0 interval lead inside the first five minutes of the second half.
Both goals were the result of the ball being given away far too cheaply, and it grew worse for Billy Millar’s side midway through the half when Matt Baxter guided a free header from a 70th minute Lincoln corner into his own net.
And, although Ant Lynam pulled one back two minutes later to add to his 42nd minute strike, the damage had already been done.
Meanwhile, Shepshed Dynamo were beating Belper Town 1-0 to overhaul the Wrens in the league table and plunge them into the bottom two.
Shepshed have played four games more than Rainworth and only lead them by a point, but the Leicestershire outfit have hit a bit of form lately while the euphoria at Rainworth’s now seemingly distant 4-1 win at Sheffield has long since disappeared.
It was a lacklustre show by the Wrens with little to reward the bulk of the hardy 72 who not only braved the rain and wind but also opted for this game rather than the high-profile FA Trophy derby between Mansfield and Alfreton just four miles away.
Rainworth gave a debut to striker Stef Frost after his international clearance was belatedly received, and also had another new boy, Kyle Gee-Pemberton from Teversal, on the bench as an unused substitute.
One sub who was used was Danny Naylor, for his first appearance since being injured in Rainworth’s last and only home win of the season, against Leek Town back in September.
His introduction for Ryan Carolan, who was not fully fit, in the 62nd minute did give the previously ineffective Rainworth midfield rather more bite. But too many players bore the look of going through the motions—if only they had all showed the commitment and application of sweeper Mark Camm then it could have been a different story against a no more than average Lincoln outfit.
There was little of note in the opening exchanges apart from an eighth minute substitution by the visitors when the injured Sam Wilkinson had to be withdrawn, until in the 12th minute United keeper Craig Turner was relieved to tip aside Frost’s header onto James Jepson’s accurate cross.
Apart from that and a chance for the visitors when Kallum Smith’s free kick from the left was driven straight into Mark Hales’ arms, the distinct lack of any worthwhile action continued to characterise a dour affair.
The action finally perked up in the 27th minute with Kallum Smith’s surging run and cross from the left finding Brendan McDaid who brought a fine save out of Mark Hales.
Frost embarked on a similar breakaway down the right for Rainworth following Cameron Fearon’s ball-winning challenge, but as home hopes were raised the delivery of the centre did not match the quality of the run.
Jack McGovern’s blistering 37th minute effort for the visitors was deflected via a post to safety by Camm, who then halted George Zuerner with a superlative challenge two minutes later.
But it was Rainworth who grabbed the advantage in the 42nd minute when Lynam dispossessed Scott Coupland, ran into the box, and slotted past the advancing Turner.
However, within five minutes of the restart the game was turned on its head. First, two minutes in, sloppy work at the back conceded possession, the ball fell to Terry Fleming, and he hit a scorching shot into the top corner.
Three minutes later Fearon, clearly struggling with an injury, lost possession on an overlapping attack and was unable to get back as Lincoln broke into the unguarded territory which would have been his to police. Zuerner took advantage, playing in Coupland who rounded Hales and slotted into the empty net.
Hales had to go full stretch to push away a McGovern free kick for a corner, and then Tommy Hannigan was forced to concede another flag kick to undo the damage after Zuerner had escaped Jepson’s attention.
But when that flag kick came over and dropped, Baxter, with space to spare, misguided his header into his own net.
The two goal cushion lasted only as many minutes. Craig Mitchell, who had replaced Frost five minutes earlier, threaded a neat ball through for Lynam to hit home from the right of the area.
Rainworth then strove to salvage a point. Mitchell headed wide from a corner, Camm saw a vicious drive deflected for another flag kick after Baxter’s initial effort was blocked, and sub Chris Hewitt’s header onto Jepson’s centre was too high, but it was not to be.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Fearon (Hewitt 73), Carolan (Naylor 62), Camm, Charlesworth, Hannigan, Jepson, Roberts, Frost (Mitchell 67), Lynam, Baxter. Subs not used: Jackson, Gee-Pemberton,
LINCOLN UNITED: Tunrer, Fleming, Smith, McDaid, Porter, Reddington, McGovern, Melton, Wilkinson (Zuerner 8), Funnell, Coupland. Subs not used: Boyce, Bull, Dye, Wright.
REFEREE: Alix Pashley of North Wingfield.
GOALS: Rainworth—Lynam 42, 72. Lincoln—Fleming 47; Coupland 50; Baxter og 70.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Rainworth - Mark Camm.
l Manager Billy Millar described Saturday’s home defeat as his side’s most disappointing result since he took over.
And, slamming some poor individual performances, he acknowledged that he and his managerial team do not have an indefinite period to pull the club away from the Evo-Stik League Division One South relegation zone.
He said: “Today is probably the poorest we have played since I’ve been in charge. We have not been playing with any fluency since we won at Sheffield, and it is hard to understand why after playing so well then.
“Today four or five players were just not at the races. We didn’t perform as a team, nor as units. Too many individuals let us down and there were very few who could look back on their displays with any degree of satisfaction.
“All three of Lincoln’s goals were down to our errors, but no-one is prepared to hold up his hand and say ‘my fault’ or look at themselves and say ‘I was shocking today.”
And when we as a management team tell them they don’t believe us.”