RAINWORTH’S brave second half fightback earned them a deserved and valuable 2-2 draw at Christ Church Meadows on Saturday.
Hosts Belper Town turned round two goals to the good, through Darryl Thomas and skipper Jon Froggatt.
But the Wrens grabbed a lifeline when Kallum Keane needlessly handled in the home box, and Rob Paling put away a 56th minute penalty, before Chris Hewitt made his appearance from the bench to notch an 81st minute leveller.
It was an important point for the Wrens in advance of last night’s scheduled home relegation showdown with bottom club Spalding.
Craig Mitchell was restored to the starting line-up alongside Nick Langford in attack. And Lee Cooksey, recruited from Sheffield primarily as a central defender, slotted into midfield where he performed effectively on his debut.
Ryan Carolan at left back, Danny Naylor in midfield and Lewis Jackson on the left were all restored to the starting 11 in a side still heavily hit by injuries.
But out of adversity the Wrens turned in a stirring second half show, riding their luck at times and giving a good account of themselves in front of a healthy local derby crowd of 261, with Cameron Fearon again immense in central defence.
Rainworth had a golden chance to take the lead with less than a minute on the clock.
Max Wright, who again showed great promise after a fine midweek debut, pulled over a teasing centre which saw both Langford and Mitchell having shots blocked and unable to force the ball over the line as Lee Thompson finally cleared the danger from inside the six yard box.
Gradually, though, Belper, who went into the game on the back of three successive away wins, began to assert themselves.
And the Nailers emphasised their increasing dominance with a well-taken 25th minute goal. Froggatt sent the lively Wiggins-Thomas on a run into the right of the area, and his cross was met by Thomas’ firm diving header into the net.
Naylor gave a taste of his pre-injury form with a superlative challenge as Paul Simmons tried to get Matty Thorpe away, and Froggatt headed Belper star man Thompson’s cross onto the roof of Mark Hales’ net, before then bringing an excellent save out of the Wrens’ keeper.
But Paling, also enjoying a busy game at right back, blotted his hitherto impressive copybook in the 34th minute when his weak back pass sold Hales short, and Froggatt nipped in to steal the ball and tuck it away.
Rainworth were forced to ride some heavy Town pressure. But when they did manage to go forward they were gifted a penalty as Keane moved his arm just enough to nudge the ball.
It said much for the attitude of Paling, having taken the blame for Belper’s second goal, that he grabbed the ball himself and would not hear of letting anyone else anywhere near the spot kick against his former club. He slotted it confidently low to Alessandro Barcherini’s left.
The goal had the effect of a life-giving injection on Rainworth. But they were thanking their lucky stars when Wiggins-Thomas looked certain to put away Thompson’s astute ball over the top, only to see his finish clear the bar.
It was still mostly Rainworth at this stage with Barcherini struggling to hold Jackson’s cross as he fell backwards, and the keeper then brilliantly tipping aside a Naylor blockbuster.
Belper’s threats in an entertaining contest were coming from swift counters, and after Froggatt completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy, Fearon did just enough to put Simmons off and force him to sky his finish when again a goal looked almost certain.
Play immediately returned to the other end, with substitute Hewitt shooting straight at Barchereini in a one on one.
Hales superbly tipped Froggatt’s close range header over the bar in Belper’s next attack, before his opposite number was again in saving action, turning Stef Frost’s follow-up for a corner after Hewitt’s initial effort was blocked.
A goal had to come at one end or the other, and it was Rainworth who got it nine minutes from time. New boy Cooksey made a powerful run through the middle before sending Mitchell into the box on the right. He crossed low, and Hewitt was there to turn it home at the far post.
Chances continued to fall at both ends, with Belper missing the more, Thomas scorning two glorious openings, between which at the other end Mitchell cut in from the left but aimed his shot on the turn too high.
BELPER: Barcherini, Thompson, Adams, Simmons, Keane, Plant, Wiggins-Thomas, Thorpe (Cartwright 74), Froggatt, Thomas, Davis (Peel 84). Subs not used: Pride, Rushbury, Barnard.
RAINWORTH: Hales, Paling, Carolan (Frost 55), Fearon, Alberry, Cooksey, Wright, Naylor (Gee-Pemberton 78), Mitchell, Langford (Hewitt 58), Jackson. Sub not used: Camm.
REFEREE: Steven Meredith of Retford.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Cameron Fearon.