A controversial 84th minute goal helped high-flying Loughborough Dynamo see off a re-vamped Rainworth MW 2-1 in the Evo-Stik NPL Division One at Kirklington Road on Saturday.
A linesman decided Joe Pheasant’s effort had come down off the bar and over the home line and the goal was awarded to Rainworth’s fury.
The home side had come from behind and had, what they believed to be a definite penalty, turned down before the crossbar controversy.
Rainworth had the ball in the net after only two minutes, but it was correctly disallowed for a foul.
Then in the fifth minute Bradley Munn theatrically collapsed under a challenge from Theo Brown, the referee unimpressed.
However, there was no doubting his involvement in the goal in the 12th minute as his cross was half blocked and fell to Nathan Watson who made space and making his finish look easy.
In the 17th minute it was Watson providing Robert Norris with a chance, but his effort was well over the bar.
Loughborough had the look of a team on top of their game and it was easy to see why they are in one of the top positions in the league.
The 28th minute saw yet another free-flowing Loughborough move and Steve Towers was just unable to turn the ball back to provide a tap-in.
Rainworth were having to dig deep to keep in the game, but to their credit they managed to stifle a lot of the Loughborough attacks, which for a neutral were a joy to watch.
Rainworth did have a moment that troubled Loughborough when Daniel Williams hit a fierce cross, which the defence were relieved to clear before a Rainworth boot arrived.
In the final minutes of the half Watson’s free kick was headed well over and, from a corner, Alvin Jarvis’ effort was well blocked.
The half ended with Loughborough on the front foot, but sterling work from Rainworth had meant they only led by a single goal.
Rainworth almost created an opportunity on the restart, but Steve Owens touch was just a little too strong.
They went even nearer in the 47th minute when Alex Ford’s cross was sent back across goal by Owens, but Alton Rennalls’ shot was blocked.
In the next attack Munn broke clear, but Brown was able to beat him to the ball and diffuse the situation.
Rainworth were now having the better of the exchanges and in the 51st minute Grant Ryan was pulled back by Jarvis on the edge of the area. A foul was given but the referee chose just to issue a verbal warning to him.
From the resultant free kick Williams hit an absolute bullet into the top corner giving James Lindley no chance, to deservedly equalise.
A neat move by Craig Mitchell and Owen ended with Mitchell’s effort being easily blocked.
Loughborough then attacked down the left and Ellis Storey’s cross only needed a touch, but no one was able to provide it.
Rainworth brought on Tristram Whitman for Owens as they pushed for the winning goal. Rennalls had the next chance but he was only able to hit it well wide.
In the 67th minute tempers flared as Ryan was run on goal was stopped by a two-footed challenge and the Loughborough player found himself in the book. The linesman also spotted Jarvis’s involvement off the ball and he too was shown a yellow card.
From the resultant free kick Williams hit an absolute screamer but it just cleared the bar with Lindley only able to watch.
The 71st minute provided the first piece of controversy, in a game that had so much to admire, when Ford got behind the Loughborough defence and as he steadied himself with only Lindley to beat, Jarvis clattered into him for what appeared a stonewall penalty and a sending-off.
Inexplicably the referee gave neither and the majority of the crowd stood in disbelief at the decision.
It was Rainworth threatening again in the 79th minute when a long ball found Ford and his goal bound shot was deflected for a corner.
The next piece of controversy came in the 84th minute when from a corner the ball deflected into Joe Pheasant’s path and his shot hit the underside of the bar and appeared to have been cleared.
The referee gave nothing but the linesman, who wasn’t up with play, signalled a goal and the referee then awarded the goal.
The only people who could actually say whether it went over the line would be those in the goal mouth and the verdict depended on which colour shirt you wore.
In the final minutes Rainworth went all out to get the equaliser, and although they went close they were unable to achieve it and Loughborough gained a narrow victory.
There is no denying the class of Loughborough and why they sit at the top of the league tonight, but many home fans left feeling cheated which was sad in a game that was a perfect advert for Evo-Stik football.
Loughborough should be in the mix come the end of the season, but Rainworth showed enough to dispel relegation worries as the season progresses.
RAINWORTH MW: Roberts; McGowan; Brown; Freeman; Hannigan; Rennalls; Williams; Mitchell; Ford; Ryan; Owens (Whitman) Subs not used: Andrews; Gregory; Jones; Hewitt.
REFEREE: Mr. Nigel Smith.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Dean Freeman.