Ben Haseley needs no introduction having won last year’s Evo-Stik Player of the Year and Golden Boot awards, as well as being nominated in the Division South Team of the Year.
Saturday proved why he won the awards as he was head and shoulders the best player on display and the difference between the two teams.
The match kicked off with Rainworth having a slight breeze behind them and they were soon on the attack.
In the third minute, a mix-up in the Halesowen defence saw the keeper perilously close to being out of his area, the referee, however, gave him the benefit of the doubt.
The first shot on goal came in the sixth minute, but Rainworth’s effort was easily dealt with.
The game was being played mainly in the middle of the park, with neither side able to dominate.
On 15 minutes the game changed when in Halesowen’s first raid into the Rainworth penalty area, a ball that should have been cleared on at least three attempts, reached Haseley and he needed no second invitation to prod it home.
Rainworth had their chance in the 20th minute to get back on level terms, but no one was able to add the final touch as the ball bounced invitingly in the area.
It was then Halesowen’s turn to threaten and Haseley clipped in an inch-perfect ball and Elliot Turner’s header grazed the outside of the post.
The ever-willing Haseley was causing problems with his constant harassing of the Rainworth defence and in the 28th minute they almost gifted him a goal, only for a last ditch tackle to save the day.
Rainworth still came forward at every opportunity and in the 40th minute James Cullingworth found Jordan Ball and his shot was only gathered at the second attempt.
That was the final action of a very even half in which Rainworth were left to rue the gifted goal, especially as it fell to a marksman of Haseley’s ability.
The second half saw Halesowen take advantage of a strengthening wind and the omens didn’t look bright for Rainworth.
To their credit, although the wind by now was like a ‘12th man’, they started to get into their passing game and caused Halesowen problems.
From one such attack in the 49th minute a great ball from Mark Dudley found Cullingworth and his well hit shot was only inches wide.
In the 60th minute Jack Hawkins replaced Jordan Ball, but moments later it was Haseley who almost added to his tally as he hit a half-chance just wide.
The wind by now was making it difficult for Rainworth to advance and Halesowen found it to their advantage to bombard them with long balls
It was from one such long ball in the 74th minute that Haseley took it on his chest and Cooley lobbed the advancing keeper.
Still Rainworth never stopped trying and Grant Ryan’s 76th minute effort flashed by the post.
However, it was Halesowen and Haseley who had the final chance of the match, when in the final minute he robbed Matt Varley, rounded the keeper but, for onc,e his shot was wide of the goal.
In a game full of effort and endeavour it was never a classic due to the wind, which Halesowen had the greater advantage in the second half.
The only difference between the teams was Haseley who once again proved his worth not only as a goal scorer but an ever-willing runner.
In the past four seasons Rainworth have come a long way in the Evo-Stik and on this showing they should once again improve on last year’s league position.
RAINWORTH: Martin; Walker; Dudley; Lloyd; Varley; Saunders; Cullingworth; Magee (Rickards 73); Longstaffe (Clarke 73); Ball (Hawkins 60); Ryan. Subs (not used): Hanson; Gregory.
REFEREE: Peter Sporne.
RAINWORTH MAN OF THE MATCH: Sam Saunders.