Despite their squad being down to the bare bones, Rainworth MW gained cup revenge over Dunkirk last night with a 5-1 away victory in the Notts FA Senior Cup quarter-finals.
Dunkirk had knocked the Wrens out of the FA Cup earlier in the season, but last night was a very different story with Jamie Clarke ending the night with a hat-trick.
Suspensions, late withdrawals and the club’s leading goalscorer breaking down in the pre-match warm up meant Rainworth had to rush back players recovering from injury to field a side, and in all honesty the bench of two would only have been used in an absolute emergency.
What followed proved without doubt, whilst the team may not boast a plethora of superstars, for sheer guts and determination, the performance deserved the end product.
As early as the fourth minute when Jack Hawkins found Clarke on the edge of the area and his shot found the bottom corner, there was only going to be one winner.
Dunkirk did have their moments and Tris Whitman had a great opportunity in the eighth minute, but he fluffed it and it was easily gathered by James Martin.
Rainworth almost doubled their lead a minute later when Scott Rickards set up Clarke, but this time his shot ballooned over the bar.
There was a moment of concern for Rainworth in the 10th minute, not from a Dunkirk attack, rather a booking picked up by Scott Rogers, which meant because of the shortage of bodies he would have to walk the tightrope for the remainder of the game.
The 15th minute saw Rainworth’s lead doubled, when from a Matt Varley long throw, the Dunkirk defenders froze allowing Rickards to stab the ball home.
The game then meandered, with both sides failing to create anything of note.
Then just before half-time Hawkins went down the wing, his cross was headed back across goal by Saunders, only for Clarke to hit his attempt over the bar. That was to be the final attack of the first-half and Rainworth were deservedly leading 2-0.
The second half started just as the first with Rainworth on the attack, and with only a couple of minutes gone Rickards found Clarke and once again his shot found the corner of the net.
The only worry Rainworth now had was would the starting 11 be able to negotiate the remainder of the half?
Dunkirk almost snatched a goal back when Kory Simms had a great chance, but he hit his shot well wide.
Rainworth came back strongly and once again Rickards found Clarke, but his flick was deflected for a corner.
From Rickards’ corner, Varley headed it back across goal and Saunders placed his powerful header past the stranded keeper to give them a four-goal cushion.
The weather was starting to have an effect on the game as both teams struggled to keep their feet. Then a glimmer of hope for Dunkirk as Martin allows a cross to slip from his grasp and Whitman’s shot deflected off the upright to open their account.
However, Rainworth continue to press forward and in the 76th minute Rickards found James Cullingworth, but his shot just cleared the bar.
Then came a moment keeper Tom Dudley will want to forget as his attempted clearance fell at the feet of Clarke, who needed no second invitation to complete his hat-trick.
There was still time for Saunders to hit his shot just wide of the upright and Whitman’s weak effort was easily gathered by Martin.
The full-time whistle brought an end a game that Rainworth dominated for the most part and deservedly ran out 5-1 winners. It had been a team effort born in adversity but finished in style, where the difference in league levels was there for all to see.
RAINWORTH: Martin, Varley, Edridge, Magee, Walker, Saunders, Cullingworth, Rogers, Rickards, J. Clarke, Hawkins. Subs not used: Dudley, M. Clarke.
REFEREE: Declan Bourne.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Kieran Walker.