Rainworth MW will go into this weekend’s penultimate match of their Evo-Stik NPL Division One South season against promotion-chasing Coalville Town on the back of an improved run of results after taking seven points from the last three matches.
The Ravens, who had led the division by a country mile for much of the season, have hit a blip and, if the Wrens continue their improved form against them, the Leicestershire visitors could well find themselves having to face the agony of play-offs for the place in the Premier Division that until recently was theirs for the taking.
Rainworth’s resilient defensive performance on Tuesday kept Northwich Victoria at bay and ended their lingering mathematical hopes of a play-off spot with a goalless draw after wins at home to Leek Town and at Stamford in the previous two matches.
Manager Kevin Gee was in a more reflective mood after Tuesday’s game, saying: “ The first half I thought we were really poor and, to be fair, but for poor finishing by Northwich we could have quite easily come in at half time 3-0 down.
“We obviously needed to make changes as we were being hurt too frequently down our right hand side, so bringing on Kieran Walker down the right gave us a bit more pace and size from their defensive set pieces.
“In the second half we were much resolute and had a better tempo to our offensive support, and we could have even pinched the game and taken three points.
“Northwich are a good side, and big and strong, so will play to those strengths in a very direct style and be extremely powerful from set plays. But we are as good as ever defending from set plays and, although players will make mistakes they are isolated ones now, not consistent.
“So I must compliment the whole team, especially the rearguard including goalkeeper Neil West, who were terrific in the last 20 minutes having to deal with a bit of an onslaught on our goal. But for the times we were throwing ourselves across people and getting blocks in on a consistent basis we deserved a point and a second clean sheet in three games.
“The draw means we have taken points from 21 of our matches with two still to go, and we probably could have got something out of at least nine of the other 19, so the season as a whole has been really encouraging .
“Looking back although January and February we didn’t achieve as many points as we could have, but March I think is the month that affected us the most.
“Obviously with League regulations determining the original decision on our future, communications were ongoing throughout all the month, and when the heart-wrenching decision was made to take automatic relegation I think it knocked the stuffing out of all involved in the club.
“Although conversations were private, rumours and gossip will always raise their heads, which eventually and unfortunately got through to the players.
“We now have gone full circle and, thankfully, new investors are coming in to give the club a bit of long term stability which is fantastic news for the club.
“But human nature then means the rumour mill starts again as to who is the knight in shining armour, because we all have a bit of that journalistic mentality in us and want to be the first to know.”
He added: “Looking forward, with two games to go to the end of the club’s best ever season at this level, we are three points away from the magic 50 points target. Both of our remaining games are against two or the better teams in the division yet again, and both will be difficult games but we are looking forward to them.
“Coalville, for me, are the best offensive team we’ve played against this season, and they have had a fantastic season. Whether they go up automatically or have to go through the play-off route, on their day they can beat anybody.
“Their current form may not be what they would like, but they will be a threat. However, we can go into the game on Saturday with no fear as all the pressure is on them and we are expected to be beaten, so we are looking forward to that challenge.
“Gresley, on the last day of the season, will basically be a case of who wants it the most coming out on top.”
For those who did not attend Tuesday’s game and so did not pick up their ‘three for one’ voucher, spectators can still pay for admission to the Coalville game and receive a voucher for free admission against Gresley the following week.
Meanwhile, the identity of the club’s new backers is expected to be released early next week.