Rainworth MW’s fate in the Evo-Stik NPL Division One South has the potential to be decided by the outcome of Saturday’s long trip to fellow strugglers Market Drayton Town.
That is the view of co-manager John Knapper, following the Wrens’ 2-0 defeat at in-form Spalding United on Saturday, while both Drayton and Kidsgrove Athletic were picking up away wins to close the gap on them.
Market Drayton’s victory at Romulus, the scene also of Rainworth’s own last win, left them two points behind the Wrens but with three games in hand, so a win for the Shropshire outfit this weekend would lift them above Rainworth.
On the other hand, though, a Rainworth win would open up a five point gap, and give them a bit of breathing space on the bottom two.
While some managers would play down the importance of one game in the overall scheme of things, Knapper is realistic enough to recognise how much could be riding on the outcome of this relegation dogfight.
He said: “We’ve got to bounce back from our last two defeats by sides in the play-off places.
“Last Saturday at Spalding was difficult for us, and although there was not a lot between the clubs in a hard-fought game, they got a goal early in the second half which gave them a bit of momentum, and they added a second right at the end.
“But we had our chances too, and 2-0 didn’t really reflect the closeness of the game.
“We have some exciting young players in the side, but they couldn’t play their brand of football on a bumpy pitch - not many teams would be able to on that surface - but Spalding played to the conditions. It’s their pitch and they know how to play it.
“So now we’ve got to go to Market Drayton and try to get the win. It’s potentially a season-defining game, but the lads will be well motivated for it.”
Neither has Knapper forgotten his first games in joint charge of Rainworth, which were both against Drayton, in the FA Trophy.
In the first tie in Shropshire a highly contentious refereeing decision gave the home side a very late penalty from which they equalised to force a 2-2 draw, and they capitalised on their good fortune by winning the replay at Rainworth fairly comfortably.
Only three of the Rainworth side from those games are still with the club, whereas Knapper says he and joint boss Ian Robinson know what to expect from them, and they will go there expecting to carry the game to them.
“We are also aware of Market Drayton and Kidsgrove breathing down our necks, but we can only do what we can do, and not rely on them slipping up,” ended Knapper.