Rainworth MW could hardly have a more testing start to their Evo-Stik League Division One South season than their two opening games.
The Wrens kick off their new campaign tomorrow (Saturday) at Leek Town, who will be among the favourites for promotion, and will follow that up on Tuesday with their first home encounter of the season against Mickleover Sports - another side expected to be in the mix next April.
The Kirklington Road club had enjoyed a decent pre-season build-up until losing a local derby at NCEL Division One Clipstone a fortnight ago in what was to have been their last pre-season fixture.
After that, a further game was arranged in a bid to restore confidence at home to Central Midlands outfit Bilsthorpe last Thursday, but that backfired as the visitors won 2-0.
Assistant manager Dean Short admits that these two results have not had the best effect on the players’ self-belief, but pointed out that pre-season results are not always indicative of what is to happen once the season proper kicks off.
Reflecting on the latest results and looking forward to the Evo-Stik League’s big kick-off, Short said: “Yes, if I’m honest it will be a tough start for us, but in the training sessions since the Bilsthorpe game we have tried to put right where we think we are going wrong.
“It doesn’t get much harder than Leek and Mickleover in quick succession, but all we can do is to take it one game at a time.
“We’d had a fairly good pre-season until the final couple of games, but nothing is won or lost in these matches, as results affecting other local teams last weekend showed.”
Rainworth in fact have a good record at Harrison Park - since their elevation to Step 4 football they had been something of a bogey side for the Blues, but Leek put that firmly to bed towards the end of last season when they romped to a 5-0 win at Kirklington Road.
Player-manager Scott Rickards will be a non-starter for the game, as he serves out the last of a three-match suspension which wasn’t completed at the end of last season, and Short admits that his absence from the pitch will be a big loss.
He continued: “It’s a blow not having Scott on the park, and he’ll be missed. But someone can and will step up to do the job he would have been doing.
“Other than that, we should have pretty much a full squad to pick from, so we hope we can pinch a goal there and maybe spring a surprise.”
Rickards will be available for the Mickleover game on Tuesday, when his captain from last season, Callum Lloyd, will be making an early return to his old stamping ground, having joined the South Derbyshire club during the close season.