MANAGER Kevin Gee has hailed the positive response of his Rainworth MW side to their New Year drubbing by Hucknall Town.
The Wrens needed to bounce back in their Evo-Stik NPL Division One South relegation scrap at Kidsgrove, and although a cruel refereeing decision cost them the victory they deserved, Gee was delighted by the reaction of his players to that shock derby defeat.
And now he is looking for his troops to reproduce that performance today when they take on league leaders Grantham, who are five points clear, at Kirklington Road.
The Wrens will, in fact, be looking to complete a league double of the Gingerbreads, having survived something of a battering at The Meres back in August to win 1-0 and, for a few days, sit at the top of the league themselves.
Since then Rainworth have also been to the other extreme of the table, but Gee points out that, having used his first game in charge against Ilkeston to weigh up the situation, their results and performances have been those of a mid-table side rather than relegation battlers.
Said Gee: “We’ve played 10 games since then, and I keep talking about blocks of five and the need for two wins in each block. We got three wins from the first five, and although the draw at Kidsgrove meant we only got one from the second we achieved the six points by drawing three of the others and only losing one. That keeps us still three points ahead of our aim after 10 games.”
Asked whether his side were robbed of a deserved win at Kidsgrove, Gee replied: “Maybe – I thought the disallowed goal should have stood, and they went straight down from the free kick and scored instead.
“But regardless of that I was delighted by the players’ reaction to the Hucknall game. It’s always tough going to Kidsgrove – they’ve had a bit of a bad run themselves but are getting their best players back now and are in a false position with the players they have.”
It said much that two of those players, Dave Walker and Liam Shotton, who had ripped Rainworth apart in the corresponding fixture last season, barely got a look in, and Gee continued: “I felt we were the better side in the first half.
“They had one shot and scored from it, and I thought that if we played like that in the second half we would get something.
“When we equalised, if there was going to be a winner it was only going to be us. Their keeper made a couple of good saves, and Ant (Lynam) was unlucky right at the end as the ball stuck under his foot when he looked set to win it for us.”
Gee had recruited three newcomers prior to the match, and although Stuart King from Stamford remained an unused substitute, the manager had words of praise for the two who did make their debuts at the Seddon Stadium – defender Adam Burton from Ilkeston and midfielder Andy Toyne from Stamford who scored the equaliser.
Gee enthused: “Young Adam Burton was terrific at centre half and gave us balance at the back, and while Andy lacked a bit of fitness it was obvious to see that he is a very good player and he got a great goal for us.”
Looking forward to the Grantham match, he added: “Yes, it’s a big game, but they are all big games in our situation.
“We are on target points wise, but there is still a lot of hard work to be done because we are not the only lower table side putting a few results together. Any two from nine could finish in the relegation positions, and we need to continue the reaction from Hucknall that we showed at Kidsgrove.”
Rainworth will be without the still unavailable Romaine Graham and fellow central defender and skipper Steve Kennedy who sits out the final match of his suspension.
But Gee ended: “When you look at the player profiles on our website we look a decent side. We had a strong bench at Kidsgrove, and with Kennedy and Graham still to come back along with Tommy Hannigan and Ian Clarke that gives us 20 very good players to choose from.”
The Gingerbreads, meanwhile, are likely to include former Rainworth striker Sean Cann – who is still the Wrens’ leading scorer this season – in their squad.