Wrens flying the local flag

Wrens bosses Scott Rickards and Dean Short.

Wrens bosses Scott Rickards and Dean Short.

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As non-League football in Nottinghamshire continues to take a hit, Rainworth Miners’ Welfare will go into the 2014-15 season as, along with Carlton Town, Nottinghamshire’s most senior clubs outside the Football League.

The demise of Eastwood Town midway through last season, which followed on from Hucknall Town’s well documented collapse, was not the end of the story, for the close season has seen Worksop Town forced to drop to the Northern Counties East League after losing their principal financial backer, while even lower down the scale Sutton Town have pulled the plug after problems with their lease of The Fieldings.

Against all this, Rainworth have somehow survived despite themselves also suffering a hefty budget cut midway through last season, with the consequent departure of most of their senior players.

That was certainly reflected in their results in the second half of the season when their team, made up predominantly of promising youngsters, plummeted down the Evo-Stik League Division One South table from the fringe of the play-off zone.

One of the problems of the second half of the season was that, with neither manager Scott Rickards nor his assistant Matty Clarke living locally, they were not in a position to identify and attract the best local players to replace those had had left in search of greener pastures.

That problem, though, has been addressed during the close season with the appointment of former Sutton Town boss Dean Short as Rickards’ number two.

Consequently a number of new players have come in and shown up well in pre-season, albeit primarily against clubs from lower down the National Leagues System, and have blended in admirably with those who still remain from last term.

Players who have moved on include goalkeeper James Martin, an ever-present last season and rated by many as the best keeper in the division - he joins newly-promoted Premier Division outfit Belper Town.

Also, last season’s captain Callum Lloyd has left, and was understood to be training with his old Hucknall Town boss Tommy Brookbanks at Loughborough Dynamo, while leading scorer Ashley Longstaff has been turning out for one of his former clubs, Sheffield, and chairman’s son Jack Hawkins played against the Wrens in a pre-season game for Worksop Town.

Others from the end of last term who have not figured in pre-season are youngsters Matt Bowles, Scott Rogers, Regan Edridge and Jobe Shaw.

Among the arrivals are veteran keeper Neil West, while former Wrens Craig Charlesworth, Craig Mitchell and Chris Hewitt are among a plethora of newcomers who have turned out in pre-season fixtures.

Rainworth remain a low-budget club for their level, and there is no room for players whose main motivation is the pay packet, so they are not expected to challenge at the top end of the division.

And they could hardly have been handed a tougher start to the season proper than a home game against Leek Town, a club over whom they held an Indian sign until the Blues well and truly laid it to rest at Kirklington Road towards the end of the last campaign with a 5-0 thumping on their way to the play-offs.

But if the new-look Wrens can remain competitive and steer clear of a relegation scrap with the players they have recruited primarily from the lower leagues, that must surely be counted a success for the Kirklington Road outfit.

Rainworth kick-off their season this Saturday away to Leek Town.