RYAN Goward’s well-taken 62nd minute equaliser took a rather out-of-sorts Rainworth another point closer to mathematical safety with a 1-1 draw with Newcastle Town at the Aspire Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Wrens’ performance never quite lived up to those of the previous few matches in what was largely a lack lustre end-of-season affair, but they did enough to ensure that the draw was a fair result in the last of five successive away trips.
And the point gained left them needing just four points from their remaining five matches to ensure another season of Northern Premier League football.
Adam Bayley had headed Castle into a 25th-minute lead, and until Goward showed his front men how it should be done with his fourth goal in eight days it was hard to see where a Rainworth goal was going to come from.
As well as suspended skipper Steve Kennedy, the Wrens were also without Stephen Akers and Nathan Adams, who had provided much of the flair up front in recent matches, but they included new boy Matt Plant for an impressive debut in Kennedy’s role at centre-back.
Plant had come in from Brigg Town, who had kindly waived the seven-day requirement, but his dual registration with NCEL outfit Barton Town, who insisted on the proper protocol, meant he could not be signed in time for Saturday’s visit to New Mills.
The big, solidly built defender slotted in as if he had been around all season, but the Wrens suffered a setback when his central defensive partner Lee Cooksey had to be withdrawn after just 16 minutes with a hamstring injury. Whether that has ended the in-form Cooksey’s season remains to be seen.
Rainworth posed the first threat in the fourth minute when Ale Barcherini’s long clearance upfield eluded his opposite number Dave Parton as he came to claim the ball, but Niall O’Rafferty was quickly closed down but the covering home defence before he could get in his shot.
Then two minutes later Ben Spargo’s driven cross-shot took a deflection for a corner.
As Newcastle responded Goward made an important interception of a through ball which looked to pick out Jack Harrison on the left, before Cooksey pulled up and had to be replaced by Cameron Fearon.
Andy Nicholls fizzed a shot wide for the home side, but the hopes of the visiting fans were raised when a foul on Spargo gave Goward a chance of a carbon copy of his first goal at Coalville a week earlier. But this time his direct shot was a little too high.
Rainworth fell behind in the 25th minute when they did not deal well with a home free kick, and came under some pressure, at the end of which Bayley netted with a far post downward header onto the lively Harrison’s pinpoint cross.
It might have been 2-0 in the 40th minute when Harry Clayton’s header from a corner hit a post before Goward scrambled it away.
Spargo was just too high with another angled effort two minutes later, then within seconds Fearon came to the Wrens’ rescue with a solid clearance after Clayton had found a way around the back of the otherwise effective Mark Camm.
As half-time approached Fearon came off the worse in a foul challenge on Marco Adaggio, but was able to resume for a second half in which, after an interval roasting by manager Kevin Gee, Rainworth began to show rather more invention.
But it was Newcastle who had the first half-chance after the break when, seven minutes in, Andy Nicholls could not find a finishing touch following good work on the right by Kyle Diskin, who then sent a 20-yard drive straight into the arms of Barcherini.
Away hopes were raised again when Jermain Hollis won possission and tried to send Spargo away, only for the striker—who for once had not strayed offside—to handle the ball instead.
With an equaliser still elusive, no one could capitalise on the hour when Parton flapped at Hollis’ corner.
But the leveller arrived just two minutes later. Danny Bacon, again beavering away in midfield, picked out Goward in the left of the area with an incisive through pass, and the overlapping left back beat Parton with a low drive into the corner.
Barcherini pulled off an unorthodox save with his legs to deny Clayton in the 66th minute as Newcastle upped their tempo for a spell during which Fearon picked up a yellow card for a foul on Andy Bratt.
Back at the other end Hollis fizzed a cross shot just past the far post, but the hearts of the travelling fans were in their mouths when Fearon conceded a needless free kick near the left corner flag. Fortunately Nicholls was unable to keep his header down.
And three minutes into added time Barcherini pushed a corner clear only as far as Jamie Haines, whose follow-up shot was also too high.
NEWCASTLE: Parton, Hutchinson, Hart, Bayley, Bratt, Haines, Diskin (Carter 85), Nicholls, Clayton, Adaggio (Ashman 76), Harrison. Subs not used: Connor, Twigg, Stribling.
RAINWORTH: Barcherini, Graham, Goward, Camm, Plant, Cooksey (Fearon 16), Hollis, Bacon, O’Rafferty (Shaw 62), Spargo (Paling 85), Lynam. Sub not used: McCormack.
REFEREE: Paul Hobday of Tipton.
GOALS: Newcastle—Bayley 25. Rainworth—Goward 62.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Goward.