The strong wind played a major part in the final result as Rainworth were beaten 4-2 against Athersley Recreation.
Rainworth had an enforced change in goal with Frazer Hampson replacing Ben Townsend who was beginning a three match suspension. They also included Danny Claridge who was making his debut at left back.
Athersley had the wind at their backs as the first half started but it was Rainworth who had the first shot. Declan Brewin found Aaron Moxam but his effort was straight at Aiden Tyas.
The game was to be decided in the 3rd minute when Athersley showed their intentions by hitting a long ball into the wind. Rainworth’s defence failed to deal with it and Hampson missed with his attempted clearance leaving Sam Bebbington through on goal. Hampson only succeeded in bringing him down as he tried to rectify his error, resulting in a red card and a penalty.
Rainworth had to bring on Carter Widdowson and sacrifice Owen Heather to replace Hampson in goal.
When the penalty was taken in the 5th minute Kai Hancock gave Widdowson no chance despite him diving the right way.
The dismissal seemed to spur Rainworth on and it was they who pushed for an equaliser belying their one man disadvantage.
Matt Sykes’s goal bound free kick was deflected for a corner, from which Matt Plant’s header was just over.
They went even closer in the 18th minute when Sykes’s free kick saw Matt Plants shot kicked off the line by Brad Kilburn.
Then totally out of the blue Athersley increased their lead when Ryan White found the back of the net in the 19th minute, yet another soft concession.
Far from breaking Rainworth’s resolve it only helped to increase it and Syke’s 22nd minute free-kick was well saved by Tyas.
Minutes later and Declan Brewin broke on the Athersley goal but his shot was blocked and cleared.
On 27minutes it was Athersley’s Ryan Smith who raced clear but his cross was cleared by Joe Cheeseman.
Rainworth were not to be denied and an excellent passing move saw Sykes set up Moxam who made no mistake to pull one back.
They almost got parity two minutes later when Steve Wankiewiscz’s pass found Moxam and only a kind deflection saw it end in the keeper’s arms and not the back of the net.
The pressure continued as Rainworth defied only having 10 men and in the 43rd minute Syke’s left defenders in his wake his final pass found Moxam but he just failed to beat the keeper.
With seconds remaining Claridge’s free-kick to the far post found Plant who hit his first time volley as precise as any striker for the equaliser.
On the half-time whistle Rainworth had done well to pull back a two goal deficit, especially being down to ten men.
Rainworth with the wind at their backs almost took the lead in the 49th minute when Syke’s free-kick flew just over the crossbar.
Both sides were struggling to come to terms with a swirling wind and the game was stagnating.
Sykes was a constant threat and on 59 minutes he found Matt Thompson but his effort was straight at Tyas.
Athersley were starting to get back into the game as Rainworth began to tire as their man less began to tell and when Smith broke fortunately for the home side he put his effort wide.
Still Rainworth came forward and Moxam’s long range effort was straight at the keeper.
Fatigue was beginning to kick in and on 70 minutes Syke’s under-hit cross field pass was intercepted and Hancock gave Widdowson no chance as Athersley regained the lead.
On 82 minutes only an excellent save by Widdowson at the expense of a corner from Smith prevented a further score.
Rainworth made a double substitution in an attempt to replace tired legs bringing on Ben Kistell and Chris Bettnay for Brewin and Sykes.
It almost paid off as Claridge’s 86th minute free-kick was gratefully pushed out for a corner by Tyas.
Deep into injury time Rainworth were caught out when a far post cross was put into Hancock’s path by Bebbington for Athersley’s fourth and his hat-trick.
On the final whistle Rainworth could look back and reflect on how close they had pushed Athersley with only ten men for all but three minutes of the game. However it was yet another game were they had gifted the opposition goals.
RAINWORTH MWFC: Hampson; Cheeseman; Claridge; Buxton; Plant; Wankiewicz; Brewin (Kistell); Thompson; Moxam; Heather (Widdowson); Sykes (Bettnay). Subs (not used): Clarke; Stevens.
Referee: Mr. Lee Hibble.
Man of the match: Phil Buxton.