Wrens given reality check ahead of Alfreton friendly

RAINWORTH MW are set to take on a first team squad from Blue Square Bet Premier new boys Alfreton Town on Saturday.

But the two sides will go into the match on the back of contrasting results.

For while the Reds utterly destroyed a youthful Sheffield Wednesday XI 14-0 on Sunday, Rainworth’s hitherto encouraging if frustrating pre-season preparations suffered a severe setback on Tuesday evening when they crashed 4-0 at home to NCEL Premier outfit Long Eaton United.

The Evo-Stik NPL Division One South club had been hampered by a succession of cancellations, having missed out on the last two Saturdays when first Retford United pulled out a fortnight ago, then Notts County withdrew from last Saturday’s date early in the preceding week.

A replacement fixture against Louth Town was arranged, but they cancelled on the eve of the match citing an outbreak of food poisoning.

It meant that, between the initial 1-1 draw with a Mansfield Town triallists side, the Wrens had only faced Central Midlands opposition prior to Tuesday night’s game.

And, while the indications from the game they had played to date were encouraging, Tuesday night’s shock heavy defeat bit deep into the club’s pre-season optimism.

All four goals conceded were embarrassing give-aways, and the overall display provided plenty of food for thought for managerial duo Lee Wilkinson and Billy Millar, and coach Darren Kelk.

Millar admitted after the match that they had gone about it in entirely the wrong way.

He said: “In the first half we concentrated on those players who we felt were having their last chance to show what they could do for us, allowing them to play in the positions they said they wanted to play.

“We need to trim the very large squad we have got, and unfortunately none of those players who were given that last chance came up with anything to change our minds.

“We changed things around at half time but instead of improving matters it just got worse.

“Fair play to Long Eaton, they won fair and square, they were by far the better team on the night, they showed the desire to win, and we were lacking in all areas.”

But Millar discounted any thoughts that taking on Alfreton this weekend were to ambitious.

He added: “We believe we made the right decision in going for a game against Alfreton’s first team squad rather than Boston United’s reserves. We wouldn’t have learned anything new against a Boston second string, and Alfreton will provide us with the much sterner test we need.

“Tuesday was just one of those nights when everything went wrong, but it’s far better for that to happen in pre-season than when the League season starts.

“No-one did well enough, they all know that, and none can be certain of a place on Saturday.

“All four goals were awful, we couldn’t seem to do right for doing wrong, and three of them came from our own possession.”

Joint boss Wilkinson added: “We went into this game allowing everyone to play in the position they wanted to play for their last chance. On reflection we tried to swap and change too much to do justice to everyone.

“We now know what our squad for the season will be, and five players will be leaving straight away.

“We had three players making their debuts, and coming into a side playing as poorly as that made it hard for them.

“But deep down we know what we have to do to put it behind us and prepare for Saturday.”

Despite Tuesday’s disaster, Millar can’t wait to face Alfreton, where he was goalkeeper in the early 1980s.

He said: “They are a bit special. I have great memories of my time there and won League Championship and Derbyshire Senior Cup medals with them before moving on to Boston.

“I still have some great friends there, and I have a lot of time for Sean Egan and Wayne Bradley who have done a magnificent job. Since Wayne took over they have just gone from strength to strength.

“Alfreton have been where we are now, and although it seems miles away after the Long Eaton game, there is no reason why in the longer term we cannot follow their example.”

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday night, Rainworth’s reserves lost 5-0 to Mansfield Town’s Academy at Field Mill.