Manager Julian Watts is hoping the return to form of Rainworth Miners Welfare has come just in time to give local-derby rivals, AFC Mansfield, the once-over this weekend.
An horrific run, stretching back to the end of October, of 13 matches without a league victory dropped Rainworth into the bottom five of the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division.
But they finally got back to winning ways with a 4-0 success at Harrogate Railway Athletic in their last game, and put up a courageous fight against holders Basford United, who play a level higher on the non-league ladder, in the semi-finals of the Notts FA Senior County Cup last midweek. Rainworth created lots of chances in the tie before falling 2-0 to a couple of second-half penalties, scored by former Mansfield Town man Ben Hutchinson.
Now Watts is banking on the mini-revival blossoming into a successful finale to the season, beginning on Saturday at star-studded AFC, who are 18 points better off in the table.
“Unfortunately our league game last weekend was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch,” said Watts. “But a training session and a spot of team bonding in the pub leads us nicely on to the local derby and very short trip to AFC Mansfield. If it’s anything like the 2-2 draw at Kirklington Road earlier in the season, it will be an absolute cracker.”
Watts admitted his side had endured “a terrible run” in which they “conceded goals far too easily”, and he had few excuses. “There have been reasons for the bad run, including injuries, which were a major factor considering we carry such a small squad,” Watts said. “But we have been the major players in our own downfall.”
Nevertheless, the Rainworth boss praised the club and the committee for their “fantastic support in such bad times” that he said had given him “the confidence to carry on, knowing there was such a belief behind us”.
“Incredibly the changing room has remained positive throughout, with a mixture of realisation of responsibility and a desire to put things right,” Watts said.
“It was an excellent team performance at Harrogate. On a poor surface, we still managed to play our brand of football and we were the dominant team from the off, defending like our lives depended on it and looking clinical at the other end.
“We also dominated the first half against Basford and we had four excellent chances. But against such a good side, you need to take your chances and that was the only part of the plan that didn’t come to fruition.
“Basford changed their formation slightly for the second half and pressed us hard from the off. We struggled to string two passes together in what was our worst spell of the match, and we were certainly on the back foot.
“I had no complaints about the penalties that were awarded, and it was still a monumental effort by us. Hopefully, it showed a turnaround in form, even though we lost.”