Five costly minutes straddling half time left Rainworth MW nursing a heavy 4-1 defeat by promotion chasing Coalville Town at Owen Street on Tuesday night, writes Gordon Foster.
Having come under some first half pressure and conceded a goal on the half-hour to Danny Jenno’s deflected free kick, the Wrens really needed not to concede again before having the chance to re-group at half-time.
But they did so as the half entered added time, when Antony Carney turned home a cross from the left from close range.
Then, within two minutes of the restart Jack McGovern had headed two virtual carbon copy goals, the first just 21 seconds in.
New boy Greg Simmons capitalised on a defensive misunderstanding to pull one back in the 49th minute, but although Rainworth dominated the rest of the second half they had left themselves far too much to do to have any real hope of saving the game.
Simmons, an 18-year-old signed from Eastwood Town, was handed his debut as boss Scott Rickards continued to place the emphasis on youth.
The Ravens, runaway leaders in the division last season until a late collapse cost them the title and promotion, had been in the sort of form which indicated that they are determined to achieve this year what they really should have done last term.
They included striker Ben Saunders, brother of Rainworth’s Sam, and it was Ben who went home with the family bragging rights.
Rainworth never really got to grips with the conditions in the first half, when the home side had the benefit of a strong corner-to-corner breeze, and two many overhit forward balls meant the Wrens never troubled home keeper Sean Bowles.
The game was slow out of the traps for both sides, but Simmons showed up well in the 17th minute, working hard to win the ball only to see his ensuing cross elude everyone.
For all their territorial advantage, though, it was not until the 23rd minute that the Ravens brought Wrens keeper James Martin into serious action. The keeper punched clear a cross and then turned over Callum Woodward’s follow-up for a corner, from which Jamie McAteer lashed a strong effort wide.
But the deadlock was broken on the half-hour when referee Declan Bourne spotted an infringement on the edge of the Rainworth box, and Jenno’s direct free kick took a deflection off the defensive wall to carry it out of Martin’s reach and into the net.
For the rest of the half Rainworth were forced to soak up some intense pressure, during which Callum Lloyd picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Reece Lester near the halfway line.
But, just when it looked as if Rainworth would hold out to half-time without conceding again, Carney was on hand to steer in Lester’s low cross at the near post.
The Wrens were caught proverbially still in the dressing room as the second half got underway, and just 21 seconds in, McGovern was on the end of a looping cross from the right to head home, then only a minute later he repeated the feat in almost an action replay.
At 4-0 down Rainworth could have been forgiven for opting for damage limitation and shutting up shop, but to their credit they opted for attack being the best form of defence, and began to carry the game to the home side, with player-manager Scott Rickards at the heart of some eye-catching play.
Within two minutes Simmons was alert to pounce on a misunderstanding between Bowles and Alex Dean to walk the ball into the net.
It may have provided only a glimmer of hope, but the Wrens went for it, putting Town under some pressure.
But it was inevitable that the Ravens would threaten on the counter, and Martin had to be alert to dive and turn away Ben Saunders’ crisp low drive.
At the other end brother Sam’s vicious rising drive from the left rattled the bar and, had that gone in, there might just have been an amazing comeback.
Rainworth brought on Kieran Walker for Matt Varley in a bid to find more thrust down the right, Jason Gregory switching to central defence and, as the Wrens continued their desperate onslaught, after some good work by Jordan Ball, Joe Flint forced Bowles into a good save.
But, as the game entered its dying embers, Coalville began to hit back again, and after McAteer had headed against the bar, Jordan Hempenstall’s free kick cannoned to safety off Martin’s knees.
Gregory was close to a second Rainworth goal in added time, but saw his effort cleared off the line.
While home officials celebrated what they described as ‘a great win over a very good side’, that was no consolation as Rainworth were left to reflect on their profligacy either side of the interval.
COALVILLE: Bowles, Dean, Lester, Jenno, McAteer, Kay, Woodward, McGovern (Hempenstall 79), B. Saunders (Woodbine 87), Carney (Fowkes 90), Miveld. Sub not used: Charley.
RAINWORTH: Martin, Gregory, Dudley, Lloyd, Varley (Walker 66), S. Saunders, Hanson, Rickards, Flint, Ball, Simmons (Hawkins 81). Subs not used: Cullingworth, Clarke, Brown.
REFEREE: Declan Bourne.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Scott Rickards.