Rainworth MW put their first pot of the new season into the cabinet on Tuesday night when they won the Green Energy Challenge Trophy.
The Wrens saw off a youthful Mansfield Town side 2-1 to wrest the trophy from the Stags, who had won the inaugural one a year earlier with a first team squad on duty on that occasion.
After a goalless first half Steve Owens put the Evo-Stik League side ahead less than a minute into the second period, and Matty Jones doubled the advantage midway through the half, before Stags got one back via Wrens skipper Mark Dudley’s unlucky own goal four minutes from time.
But it was a ‘curate’s egg’ show from Rainworth, leaving management duo Scott Rickards and Dean Short frustrated at half-time and delighted by the second half improvement.
With Mansfield’s senior squad on duty at Lincoln City and a young side sent to Kirklington Road to fulfil this fixture, Rickards expected better from his squad.
He said: “Mansfield sent a different standard of side to us this year, and from our point of view I would have expected a group of experienced non-League players to match them physically, but for 45 minutes we were too far off the pace, which was disappointing.
“But we had the chance to put a few things right at half time, raised our game and scored a couple of second half goals with a few more chances also created.
“We are trying to create an environment in pre-season where getting things right is the priority rather than results, but if you do the right things you do create chances and score a few goals.”
Rickards did have a word of praise for central defender Mason Rowley, who was making his debut. He continued: “I’ve played alongside Mason before when he was a teenager, so I already knew him.
“He’s in his early 20s now, and has had a couple of seasons at this sort of level and higher, and has developed into a good player.
“He is now living in the area and will be a massive addition for us. He has aerial ability, he attacks the ball well and is comfortable in possession, rather in the Sam Saunders mould, and when you see a fully fit Mason Rowley you will see him dominate the heart of defence.
“In fact all of our central defenders have done well so far, and Jason Gregory, who struggled with injury at the end of last season, is now fully fit again.”
Short added: “We have to work tirelessly in the next couple of weeks to ensure that we are ready for 16th August. We have a good squad to work with, but we need to hit the ground running and put some early points on the board in what is going to be a difficult start to the season.”
The Wrens play their last pre-season game this Saturday when they make the short trip to Clipstone, and Rickards ended: “If we feel we need an extra game after that we will try to arrange something for the 9th, but we may take the time instead to work on the training pitch and make sure that we are where we want to be in terms of preparation.”