A festive pantomime of an afternoon left Rainworth MW upset with referee Matthew Law as they let home side Carlton Town off the hook to lose 2-1 at Carlton Town in the Evo-Stik NPL.
Rainworth’s visit to Carlton was their first since their 6-2 drubbing in last season’s Notts Senior Cup final.
Both sides have struggled since then and Rainworth have currently lost the ability to turn periods of dominance into goals and subsequently victories.
This was another such episode in a season of squandered opportunities, although the Wrens felt the man in black played a large part.
Early in the match he had overruled his assistant who was five yards from the incident, while he was 35 yards away which set the tone.
The early exchanges for the most part broke down as both sides, low in confidence, failed to build up any momentum.
It wasn’t until the 19th minute when Rainworth debutant Josh Raven broke into the penalty area, but his driven cross was blocked for a corner.
They went even closer when in the 22nd minute Theo Brown’s free kick was met by Alex Ford’s head, but the effort went just wide and it happened again shortly afterwards.
They should probably have done better in the 34th minute when a long throw caused confusion in the Carlton penalty area, but Dean Freeman could only direct it wide.
As the whistle went for half-time, Rainworth had only themselves to blame for a goalless scoreline in a match in which they had created most of the chances.
Rainworth continued to threaten as the second half got underway, and in the 50th minute Theo Brown’s run and cross was almost put into their own net by a Carlton defender.
Just as it seemed Rainworth would never score, Kuwesi Ofushine found Romaine Graham, whose well hit shot was only parried by Martin Kearney and Ofushine hit home the rebound.
Carlton’s best effort of the game came in the 54th minute when Martin Ball’s header flashed past the upright.
This was the prelude to a piece of pantomime from the man in black that was to change the course of the game.
Carlton up to this moment hadn’t really threatened, but in the 63rd minute a move that contained at least two blatant fouls cumulated with Aaron Hooton clearly pushing Freeman off the pitch.
The crowd shouted ‘he was pushed from behind ref’, only for the expected, ‘oh no he wasn’t’ to be followed by the ref awarding a corner, a pure piece of pantomime.
It was even more pantomime-like when, from the corner, he appeared to have awarded Rainworth a free kick only to have actually given Carlton a penalty.
Carlton may have been second best for most of the game but Hooton wasn’t going to miss this gifted opportunity and he duly converted the spot kick to equalise.
Rainworth continued to attack and were rewarded in the 72nd minute with a penalty of their own when Graham was brought down in the area.
Graham took the penalty himself, but it lacked conviction and Kearney parried, and Graham’s goal bound follow-up was then brilliantly saved by Kearney.
Then from a 75th minute corner, Rainworth left Tom Maddison unmarked and he needed no second chance to head Carlton into the lead.
Still Rainworth came forward and in the 81st minute Craven was denied by a full stretched finger-tip save by Kearney.
Rainworth created a couple more chances before the end, but Henry Sibenge and Tommy Hannigan’s efforts both went wide.
At the final whistle it was Carlton who were grateful for the three points gifted to them by Rainworth, with more than a little help from the man in the middle.
In truth Rainworth should have been out of sight by half-time and have only themselves to blame for the poor finishing, and the refereeing gaffe shouldn’t have played any part in the final result.
RAINWORTH: Turner, Raven, T. Brown, Freeman, Hannigan, Kelleher, Ofushine, Nwadike (Sibenge), Graham, Ford, Brock (S. Robinson). Subs not used: I. Robinson; Kenlock.
REFEREE: Matthew Law.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Gino Kelleher.