Rainworth MW player-manager Scott Rickards has warned his players and supporters not to get too carried away by Tuesday night’s 4-0 destruction of Worksop Town.
Three first half goals of the highest quality, by Rickards himself direct from a free kick, Tristram Whitman and Steve Owens, who was playing against his former club, gave the Evo-Stik League Division One South club a comfortable half-time lead which was added to early in the second by Craig Mitchell from the penalty spot.
But it was a Tigers’ side far removed from that which reached the Evo-Stik Premier play-offs last season before the club’s main backer pulled out, resulting in their resignation from the league and a step down to the Northern Counties East.
Even so, Worksop contrived to play some good quality football, as one expects from any side managed by Mark Shaw. But - and how rarely has this been said in recent seasons - the Wrens gave them a lesson in finishing during the first half, and even after multiple changes following half-time, both sides continued to serve up some attractive play for the 102 spectators who turned up.
Rickards and his new assistant Dean Short were clearly delighted by the Wrens’ display over the 90 minutes and praised a squad of players who ‘want to play for Rainworth, not for mega-money’. But they still urged caution ahead of the forthcoming friendlies against Clay Cross Town on Saturday and Mansfield Town next Tuesday night.
Said Rickards: “We always say that results don’t matter too much in these games, but in a roundabout way they do because they provide some measure of your pre-season progress. But it’s still more important to look at the squad we are putting together, and how they are responding to the way we do things.
“Of course we have to be pleased with a 4-0 against Worksop Town, even if it is a new-look side, because their philosophy is very much ours, to get the ball down and play attractive attacking football with sharpness and aggression.
“But it would be foolish on the basis of this result to think we have arrived. Clay Cross might well be three leagues below us, but they will be fired up to come here and try to put one over on us, especially with a manager (Ant Lynam) who was a fans’ favourite here for a number of years.
“So there will be a lot of lads on both sides who know each other and we will not be taking the fixture any more lightly than we take the visit of Mansfield Town next Tuesday.
“As pre-season progresses we will look to set the squad at a manageable size as we begin to work out what is likely to be our starting line-up against Leek Town on 16th August.
“We are still looking at a number of players, and if we hear of anyone coming available who is stronger than what we have we will try to bring him in. But what we have here now is a group of lads coming in who didn’t know those already here from last season, and I’m delighted at how they have gelled relatively quickly.”
Meanwhile, Short expressed his joy at the way he is settling into his new job. He said: “I had a couple of weeks away from football after leaving Sutton Town, but I’m enjoying being involved in this higher level of football.
“It’s going to be a great experience for me, I can only learn from people like Scott, and it’s a big step in my own managerial career.
“This result has probably set our standard, and it’s important that we continue not only to uphold that but to build further on it.”
Saturday’s game against Clay Cross at Kirklington Road is the annual pre-season fixture against the Central Midlands North club, but is switched to Rainworth because of ongoing work at the Derbyshire side’s ground.
Tuesday’s game against Mansfield Town is the now annual match for the Green Energy Challenge Trophy, and the Stags have promised to bring a strong side to defend the trophy they won last year, even though they will also be sending a squad to Lincoln City on the same evening.
The Wrens were also advised of one more fixture this week - they have been drawn away to Loughborough Dynamo in the preliminary round of the Doodson Sport Cup, which is scheduled for Tuesday 2nd September, with the winners away to Gresley in the first round.