Rainworth MW’s hopes of making it three wins in a row were ended by Gresley’s powerful second half performance in a 4-2 defeat at the Moat Ground on Saturday.
Three second half goals by the managerless Moatmen overturned the Wrens’ 2-1 interval lead, provided by Grant Ryan and Alex Ford, who had turned the first half Rainworth’s way following Alex Steadman’s opener for the home side.
But the injury and illness-hit Wrens were forced onto the back foot after the interval, and a Kieran O’Connell double either side of one by Bradley Wells ensured a convincing win for the homesters.
Joint manager Gary Sucharewycz was philosophical after the defeat, saying: “We’ve just been stretched a bit too far today with players either ill or injured, and we’ve had to start a couple today despite them carrying knocks.
“We’ve conceded a couple of bad goals, and without those we would have got something out of the game.
“But the defence has been top drawer so far, and Gresley will hurt teams week in week out, so we’ll go again and look to put another mini-run together.”
Gresley trumpeted the inclusion of new former Alfreton Town first choice keeper Ross Atkins, who had signed during the week, but it was his opposite number in the Rainworth goal, Liam Roberts, who kept the Wrens in the game with a string of excellent blocks and saves which earned him the supporters’ vote for man of the match.
The young Walsall keeper, whose loan has been extended for a further month, gave a foretaste of his personal display to come in only the fifth minute, denying Martyn Smith following a link-up with O’Connell.
Ford, one of Rainworth’s walking wounded, headed Rainworth’s first chance too high from a ninth minute corner, and then couldn’t quite get his head onto Kieran Couple’s long angled ball into the box, claiming unsuccessfully that he had been impeded.
But Gresley were playing the better football and they took an 18th minute lead when Steadman rose high beyond the back post to head skipper Eric Graves’ lofted cross firmly into the net.
Three minutes later Ford popped up on the home goal line for a spectacular clearance of O’Connell’s even more spectacular shot following a corner.
And three more minutes on it was Ford at the other end who played the ball wide right from where Ryan unleashed an unstoppable scorcher of a volley into Atkins’ net.
It was still Gresley who were having the better of the play, though, and Roberts thwarted Luke Edwards, who had found a way around the back of Coupe.
Steadman picked up a booking for a ‘professional’ foul on Ryan, before Roberts distinguished himself again when he tipped Edwards’ goalbound header over the bar, and thwarted the same player again moments later with his knees.
But it was Rainworth who went in for the break a goal to the good when, in the 43rd minute, Ford pounced on some lax defending to slot past Atkins.
Roberts still needed another excellent save to keep out Jack Langston’s effort and preserve the lead into the interval.
With Gresley playing down their notorious slope in the second half, Rainworth came under pressure for long periods at a time, and with the half less than a minute old Roberts’ knees rescued the situation after Edwards was found unmarked in the area by Lucas Harrison’s free kick.
Dean Freeman picked up a booking for a foul and Roberts saved again after Steadman got round the back of the Wrens’ defender.
But the home pressure finally told in the 57th minute as, with the Wrens defence struggling to get the ball out of their own area, O’Connell slotted low into the net to restore parity.
The by now struggling Ford made way for new striker Alex Houghton, who had joined from Grantham during the week, just before the hour, and his strike partner Ryan became the second Rainworth player in referee Mark Hutchinson’s book for a foul on Graves.
The Moatmen finally got their noses in front again in the 66th minute when Atkins’ long free kick for an offside found Wells unmarked in the area to make no mistake.
Rainworth’s woes were compounded when Tris Whitman fell awkwardly and had to be helped off, to be replaced by Matty Jones.
And it was game over to all intents and purposes in the 83rd minute when O’Connell’s low and fairly week effort caught the defence napping and crept in at the near post.
It might have been five in the fourth added minute as Harrison rattled the bar with a free kick from almost 30 yards and O’Connell missed his chance of a hat-trick by heading the rebound over the bar.
GRESLEY: Atkins, Smyth, Harrison, Roome, Hanson, Graves, Wells (Grice 90+4), O’Connell, Edwards (King 88), Langston, Steadman (Mulonga 82).
RAINWORTH: Roberts, Coupe (J. Brown 38), Andrews, Hannigan, Freeman, McGowan, Williams, Mitchell, Ford (Houghton 59), Ryan, Whitman (Jones 69).
REFEREE: Mark Hutchinson of Bingham.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Roberts.