Joint Manager Ian Robinson remains optimistic that Rainworth MW can retain their Evo-Stik NPL status despite their slide into the drop zone.
The Wrens fell to next-to-bottom in Division One South following Saturday’s home defeat by play-off hopefuls Gresley while fellow strugglers Kidsgrove Athletic and Market Drayton Town have started to string a run of wins together.
Robinson knows that if Rainworth are to haul themselves out of the relegation places then they must embark on a similar run to those of their rivals.
But, after seeing his side, shorn of three of the most experienced players, come close to holding Gresley to a draw before going down to a single goal, he believes his team of exciting youngsters have it in them to get themselves out of trouble.
The side certainly owed their management a performance after their tame surrender to Market Drayton in a potentially crucial six-pointer the week earlier, and despite the final result the performance gave much cause for encouragement.
Central defender Tommy Hanningan had left for big-spending NCEL neighbours AFC Mansfield, while fellow centre-back Dan White and skipper Emeka Nwadike were absent though pressing family commitments.
Robinson admitted that without these three lynch-pins he expected his side to struggle against Gresley, but while they were very much under the cosh for the first quarter of the game, once their nerves had settled they played themselves into the contest and gave an encouraging account of themselves.
Indeed, they might even have won it had one gilt-edged chance been taken in the second half but, as Robinson reflected, “Goals change games. We miss that one, and they go down to the other end soon after and score a set piece.”
He continued: “We have an exciting young squad, very talented, and we didn’t miss those three players as much as I expected. I thought our performance, once we settled, was outstanding, we put them under some pressure late on, and we were worth at least a point.
“But this is not the first time I have said that we need to turn good performances into positive results, and I hope that these lads can do enough to keep us in this division, then with the benefit of a good pre-season they will be ready to go next year.”
It’s true that the resurgence of Kidsgrove and Drayton leaves the Wrens currently looking as if they have a mountain to climb, and Robinson pointed out: “They’ve both brought in new players who are capable of muscling out the opposition, whereas we have tactically superior players who are quick and skilful but lack experience.
“They will learn a lot from the situation we are in, and as for me it’s not the first time that I’ve been in this position with a club. When I came here we had just one point and were suffering heavy defeats on a regular basis, we’re now on 21 which still isn’t enough, but we’ve competed well in the majority of those games. I believe we will pick up results, but the question will be whether we can pick up enough of them to keep us up.”
One glimmer of hope for the back end of the season is the imminent return to fitness of striker Grant Ryan, who has been sidelined since early October with a broken foot. The Wrens have been finding goals hard to come by, and the return of a fully fit Ryan would be a major boost to the squad, and it may be that as he approaches the time when he is ready to play again he may be given the chance to regain full match fitness by playing a couple of games at a lower level.
Meanwhile Rainworth’s quest to get out of trouble continues this weekend at Loughborough Dynamo, who have endured an up and down season. Included in the Dynamo squad is former Wrens keeper Joe McCormack.
Looking forward, Robinson said: “It’s been a strange season for them, and I’m not sure what to expect except a close game, because the majority of our game are close, and I expect us to take something from it, because I say that every week.
“No-one expected us to get anything from Gresley, but we came close to nicking something from them. The young lads are learning quickly, and I want to be here next season to work with them, so we’ll continue to work up to the end of the season, hope it will be enough to keep us up, and then start again next year with the benefit of a proper pre-season, which we certainly didn’t have for this year.”