RAINWORTH MW were left to come to terms with two defeats in four days on Tuesday night after being the only Evo-Stik NPL Division One South side to win their opening two fixtures.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Belper ended the Wrens’ short reign at the top of the division, and on Tuesday night they suffered their first home defeat of the campaign, 2-0 against a newly-promoted New Mills side which showed all the attributes of a top three club for this season, while Rainworth showed glimpses of ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ tendencies.
The home defeat came as a result of two at best contentiously awarded free kicks, during a second half in which, following a change of shape, they had begun to match an excellent Millers side, after surviving being somewhat over-run in the first period.
It begged the question of whether too much is currently being asked of the defence, and joint boss Billy Millar agreed that a lot has been asked of the rearguard in the opening games of the season.
Speaking after the New Mills game, Millar said: “ I think we’ve asked a lot of them all the way through, and this result was certainly not their fault. New Mills did not score from open play.”
Millar’s co-manager Lee Wilkinson pointed out: “We haven’t been defending as a back four, but as a team, so everyone has worked well.
“Without those two free kicks it would have been 0-0, and on both occasions we’ve had open goals at the other end but not taken the chances.
“Had (goalkeeper) Gavin Saxby played as he had played for the first three games he would have got to both, but unfortunately he had a bit of an off day and couldn’t get to balls he would normally have dealt with.
“New Mills played really well, but they never got in behind us and ripped us apart, so it’s disappointing when they score from two long range free kicks which were not even free kicks.”
Rainworth will come up against New Mills again on Saturday week, this time away in the FA Cup, and Millar added: “We know all about them now. We knew a bit about them already, and were debating whether to go three at the back to combat them.
“When we went that way in the second half we were much better, but we stuck to the back four to begin with because that had brought us wins in our first two matches and only a late goal cost us a point at Belper.
“We’re not going to win every game, but we got off to a flying start and you can see the difference between now and this time last season, and with the addition of a couple more quality players we will finish well up the league.
“Tonight three players were below their best, and if they had been up to their normal form we would have taken something.
“But against opposition of the calibre of New Mills, when three players are below par you lose your entire balance as a team.”
Looking forward to Saturday’s home game against Market Drayton, Wilkinson said: “They, like us, were at the wrong end of the league last season, but under a new manager they have made a better start.
“If we play as we did in the first half tonight we will get nowhere. If we play as we played in the second half we can win it.
“So we have to ask ourselves, do we play the first half team or the second half team?”