RAINWORTH catapulted themselves into the Division One South play-off zone with their first ever competitive victory over neighbours Belper Town at Christ Church Meadow last night (Tuesday) with a 2-1 success.
A night of high drama saw former Nailer Jordan Turner deliver the coup de grace from the penalty spot late on, after the striker had been hauled down by home keeper David Ratcliffe.
The result extended the Wrens’ unbeaten run to seven, easily their best since their promotion to the Evo-Stik NPL, lifting them up to fourth place—and manager Kevin Gee may well have breathed a sigh of relief at the end.
For resurgent Belper’s two previous matches, both won, had been immediately followed by the resignation of the opposing managers—Northwich Victoria’s Andy Mutch and Hucknall Town’s Brett Marshall.
Not that Gee would have followed suit, of course, for under his watch this is a totally different Rainworth from that which had struggled to compete at this level over the previous two seasons.
And even though the squad was down to the bare bones with Ashley Kitchen, Ryan Goward, Danny Bacon, Ian Holmes and Karl Slack all missing, this was a stirring show by Gee’s men, with Sam Craven, on loan from Boston United, enjoying a fine debut in Bacon’s customary midfield berth.
The local derby made an explosive start, which set the agenda for the rest of the evening.
For, by the time home skipper Steve Warne had fired Belper into the lead after just 122 seconds the home side had already been counting their blessings.
With half a minute gone Turner won Rainworth a corner from which Kieran Walker’s low shot came back off a post and Blair Anderson’s celebrations on netting the follow up were cut short by an offside flag.
From the resulting kick Belper broke down the right through wing back Aaron Pride, whose angled cross picked out Warne to apply a clinical finish.
As Rainworth hit back with a pleasing display of passing football which had Callum Lloyd at the heart, Turner proved a real handful for his old team mates, who were constantly reduced to foul tactics as the only way they could contain him. And Karl Colley’s booking for one such foul was ultimately to prove costly.
On any other day Turner would surely have been named man of the match following his long-awaited first start, but he was edged out by Lloyd, who never put a foot wrong until missing a sitter right at the death.
However, the free kicks won by Turner were wasted, and the Wrens’ fluent play was more often than not frustrated by poor final balls.
Indeed the Nailers might have turned round two goals to the good when, from a swift counter along the left, Shaun Tuton headed against Joe McCormack’s crossbar and out.
Belper made a better start to the second half, and Colley headed wide from a corner. But when Rainworth began to re-assert themselves Colley committed one cautionable foul too many on livewire Turner in the 54th minute, and his second yellow card was followed by the inevitable red. He could not complain.
Even so, the Wrens were grateful to McCormack for a point blank save in the 65th minute to thwart Richard Stirrup. But within a minute the visitors were deservedly back on terms, Blair Anderson’s deep cross being met in the left of the box by Ricky Hanson who beat Ratcliffe from a tight angle.
The Wrens were not really making their extra man count as they should, and Belper began to enjoy a short spell in the ascendancy until, as the game entered its final stages, Turner saw a shot blocked and Lloyd’s follow up was just wide, while Nailers substitute Mark Ward also went close from 20 yards.
But it was Turner who had the final say, getting up to place his spot kick to Ratcliffe’s right in the 88th minute after being fouled by the keeper .
Twice Ratcliffe gambled by joining the attack for set pieces in a bid to rescue a point for the Nailers, but Lloyd slightly blotted his otherwise faultless display in stoppage time by blazing over an open goal after being set up by an Anderson-Turner break away.
BELPER: Ratcliffe, Pride (Rushbury 90+2), Wright, Marrison, Roulston, Colley, Stirrup, Ward, Stephens (Ward 79), Tuton, Deakin (Adams 54). Subs not used: Froggatt, Chapman.
RAINWORTH: McCormack, Walker, Hanson, Camm, Cooksey, Burton, Lloyd, Craven, Turner (Claxton 90+3), J. Holmes, Anderson. Subs not used: Lowe, Iliffe, Barcherini.
REFEREE: Alan Hall of Sheffield.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Callum Lloyd.