The first local derby between Eastwood Town and Rainworth in the Evo-Stik Division One South ended all square at 1-1 at Coronation Park on Monday.
While never a classic, there was no quarter given and Eastwood had the better of the early exchanges.
But it was the trees behind the goals that were in more danger of being hit than the goal netting.
In fact we had to wait until the 19th minute before either goal was threatened, and it was Jason Bradley’s drive that whistled past the post with Alex Malong a mere spectator.
The only other action of note was in the 42nd minute when Liam Garner’s deftly flicked header had the crowd rising in unison to acknowledge the goal. Alas the ball hadn’t found the back of the net, leaving the home crowd with a half-time talking point.
Eastwood had the better of the exchanges in a fiercely- fought half, in which neither side had been able to add the finishing touch.
The early part of the second half followed the same pattern as the first with the trees still in imminent danger from yet more wayward shooting.
Just when it looked that neither side would break the deadlock, Eastwood found the back of the net. Sam Saunders was winning the physical battle with ex-Wren Kieran Wells, but in the 51st minute when a cross found Wells on the edge of the area, his well-placed header found the top corner.
In the past that would have been the end of the match as a contest, but Rainworth rallied and took the game to Eastwood.
They nearly capitalised on a Jamie Brown break, when his well-hit cross just evaded Jason Bradley and was gratefully collected by Malong.
Jamie Brown almost netted in the 76th minute, but his shot was hit wide.
Eastwood by now were spending periods defending, and in the 77th minute blocked Nathan Modest’s fierce drive, but Clarke was on hand to hit an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
The final minutes of the half were a tense affair with Rainworth pressing for the winner, and Clarke’s header was denied at the expense of a corner.
Eastwood were reduced to counter-attacks, but Jevin Seaton’s shot was nearly put in by Wells and then Tristram Whitman was inches wide on the turn
The final chance fell to Clarke in injury time after a Malong error, but he was able to atone at the expense of a corner.
Both sides will probably feel they should have won the game, when they look back on their periods of ascendancy.
In truth, neither side possessed that killer touch in front of goal, and a draw was probably a fair result.
Whilst the league is contested over 42 games, it is how you compete in games like this that usually shape your season.
While this was never a classic, both showed glimpses of what is required, and both could well be in the mix at the end of the season, especially if they can improve their finishing.
On Saturday, Rainworth bounced back from Tuesday’s home defeat by Goole to beat Chasetown 3-1 with the help of two own goals in their NPL Division One South clash at Kirklington Road.
After a good opening day victory away at Loughborough on the previous Saturday, the fans were wondering which Rainworth would turn up.
Chasetown are one of the promotion favourites having narrowly been beaten in last season’s play-off final by Stamford.
Last season Rainworth failed to gain a point or even score a goal in the two league encounters, so expectations for this encounter were low.
Rainworth showed three changes from the previous starting line-up.
But from the kick-off Rainworth were up for it and took the game to Chasetown, determined not to continue the run of scoreless defeats.
And Rainworth capitalised on their early dominance when a beautifully struck Ricky Hanson free kick was clinically headed home by Jason Bradley on 11 minutes.
The Wrens remained an attacking force and in the 52nd minute a well-struck corner was attacked by at least three Rainworth players and, in the ensuing panic, Chasetown’s Richard Teesdale put the ball into his own net.
This seemed to spur Rainworth on and in the 58th minute a tricky Brown run ended with him rounding the keeper and hitting the ball across the gaping Chasetown goal. Chasetown’s Chris Slater just won the race, but only succeeded in putting the ball into his own goal. On paper it looked as though Rainworth were being helped by Chasetown, in reality the goals had been well earned.
Pressure began to mount, and in the 77th minute Rainworth were caught trying to play the offside trap.
Ramone Stephens broke clear, drew the keeper and when it seemed easier to score blasted his shot well over the bar.
Rainworth hadn’t learned and from yet another break, Nick Wellecomme, who bagged a hat-trick when the sides last met, at last got his name on the scoresheet as Chasetown finished strongly.