RAINWORTH MW will be hoping to make it third time lucky when they begin their FA Trophy campaign at home to Southern League Central outfit Leighton Town on Saturday.
The Evo-Stik NPL Division One South club will be making their third attempt at progress in the competition after falling at the first hurdle in their two previous tries since their promotion from the Northern Counties East League.
And the tie will represent another chance to earn some FA competition prize money, after the disappointment of missing out in Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay at neighbours Carlton Town.
The Wrens had led 1-0 at the break from Callum Lloyd’s early candidate for ‘goal of the season’, but missed numerous more chances and let the tie slip from their grasp in the second half to lose 3-1, leaving manager Kevin Gee frustrated and incredulous.
The tie turned on ace marksman Ruben Wiggins-Thomas’ equaliser early in the second half, when he was allowed to escape the attentions of three defenders – something which left Gee scratching his head in wonder.
He said: “Up to that point we never looked in any danger and I thought we were going to get two or three more ourselves. But one striker gets the better of three defenders in one go, it’s 1-1 and Carlton are given the extra impetus.
“That’s now three times this season that we have lost a game which on balance of play and chances created we should have won comfortably. That’s football for you, and I can’t fault the lads’ efforts.”
The Wrens were then caught cold after a long delay when one of the assistant referees pulled up with a hamstring injury, when within seconds of the restart Carlton doubled their lead. And with Rainworth pushing forward for an equaliser they were caught on the break again when replacement linesman Ian Dudley’s flag stayed down with Wiggins-Thomas appearing well offside as he was allowed to run on and put the tie beyond the visitors.
Gee continued: “Overall we have probably created three chances for every one that Carlton have done, yet they have won 3-1, but that is why they were a top two side last season with the quality of their strike force – they were much more clinical than we were when their chances did come.”
Gee was prepared to look at the positives too, pointing out: “Carlton will be there or thereabouts again this season, and we have matched them over two games. But we would have had to score four goals to beat them, and against a side like Carlton that’s a huge ask.
“Last season we made ourselves hard to beat, this year we are competing and creating, but we are not rounding it off. If that means we have to bring in one or two more players then so be it.”
Indeed Gee has already taken his first steps along that road, having secured the signature of Hucknall Town striker Karl Slack, although he will not be available for the FA Trophy tie.
Gee said: “Karl’s a good player, he gets goals, he works defences, and he will be available when we return to bread and butter league action next weekend.
“I’m also looking to add one more front man who could be on board by the weekend, and to add another central defender because we lack cover in that area.”
Looking forward to the Trophy tie, Gee revealed: “I’ve had them watched and they apparently look a very good side despite their league position, so we will have our hands full.
“Financially it’s a big game for us after missing out on £3,000 in the Cup, so we need to be at our best to win it. We are playing a team of our own level, and if I look at the squad we have and ask myself whether we can win it, my answer is undoubtedly yes.”