New boy Owen Heather came off the bench to devastating effect as Rainworth trounced Clay Cross Town 8-1 in their final pre-season game on Saturday.
Heather, who made a promising debut in last Tuesday’s 2-0 win over United Counties side Melton Mowbray, emerged for the final half-hour to bag four goals at the Central Midlands club’s Mill Lane ground in their annual pre-season fixture.
Declan Brewin had opened the scoring in the sixth minute, and after Aaron Moxam had doubled the lead in the 41st minute the Millers pulled a deserved goal back on the stroke of half time, having given the Wrens a searching first half examination.
But Rainworth ran riot in the second half, with Jordan Claxton getting on the scoresheet 10 minutes in, before Heather grabbed his first on the hour, just two minutes after coming on. Moxam then added his second on 70, then Heather completed the rout with goals on 72, 74 and 82 minutes.
Reflecting on the end of the Wrens’ pre-season programme before they begin in earnest with a home FA Cup tie against Cleethorpes Town this Saturday, boss Julian Watts was in ebullient mood, saying: “You can’t argue with eight goals whatever the level of the opposition.
“We struggled a bit in the first half as they made it difficult for us, but we passed the ball around and I thought they would tire in the second half if we kept on moving the ball as quickly as we did - and indeed we looked stronger and stronger as the half went on.”
On new boy Heather, Watts enthused: “He only came to us last week, we had a look at him last Tuesday against Melton, and we signed him straight afterwards. We could see he has very good technical ability and an awareness of what’s around him, and today he’s shown that he knows where the goal is. He’s fitted in position-wise with what we do, and looks a great signing.”
Attention now turns to the serious stuff, and Cleethorpes represent a formidable hurdle if Rainworth are to make any FA Cup progress this year. Watts is under no illusions as to the size of the task, but feels his side is capable of picking up a bit of prize money.
He continued: “I’m 90 per cent certain of the line-up, although I’m still trying to bring in one more player who would most probably start if we can get him, so we are there or thereabouts.
“You know what you get with Cleethorpes, they keep hold of their players year in, year out, so they’ve been together a lot and won’t have changed the way they play. Last year we matched them at home and had one of those days when seemingly every time we attacked we scored, so that was a good 6-3 win, and we were a little unlucky to lose at their place as a result of a couple of errors.
“But we have strengthened since last season - we’ve kept most of the best players and recruited some better players than those who have moved on, so although we still have a few creases to iron out, we look a much better all round unit.”
Watts had a word of praise for Matty Sykes, who he thought he had lost when the left-sided player moved to live in York. He said: “Matty had a couple of sessions with a club up there and realised how much he had enjoyed it here, so he will tie in visits to his parents who still live locally with playing for us.
“He’s a fantastic footballer, we are delighted to have him back on board.
“Last season Matty and Connor Smythe were a great partnership on the left, until Connor went to Handsworth, but he is already establishing a similar understanding with Jordan Claxton, who is back with us after a year out through work commitments, and looking much sharper.”