Rainworth had not won in the league since 23rd November, if you discount the New Year’s Day victory against Eastwood which most certainly will be expunged from the records.
Rainworth manager Scott Rickards chose to introduce youth in an attempt to reverse this trend, although all but one of the defeats had been by a solitary goal.
Having released three senior players in the week and with five of the side and three substitutes aged 20 or under playing against a side packed with experience, surely there would be only one outcome?
Rainworth lost the toss and Mickleover chose to kick with a strong breeze at their backs, but it was Rainworth who got off to a quick start.
In the first attack of the match a slick move between Regan Edridge and Jack Hawkins set up Tristram Whitman and only a fine save by Chris Martin prevented the opening score.
Mickleover’s first chance came in the 16th minute when an error by Sam Saunders set up Chris Palmer, but he shot wide.
Rainworth, however, continued to push forward and a fine through ball was headed into the path of Whitman by Ashley Longstaff, who bore down on goal and coolly hit his shot into the far corner to open the scoring.
The game was fiercely contested, neither side were prepared to back down, and it was Rainworth’s Saunders who was the first to find his way into the referees notebook.
Rainworth’s James Martin had been tested on a couple of occasions, but he was up to the efforts.
In the final minute Mickleover had a chance but Rainworth scrambled it clear as the referee blew for half-time.
A half that for the most part had been fought in the middle of the park had swung in Rainworth’s favour with the only clear cut chance.
Rainworth continued the second half like they had the first on the front foot as Longstaff’s effort was gathered by Chris Martin.
This was quickly followed by a neat passing move between Callum Lloyd and Edridge, but it came to nothing.
The Mickleover goal was again threatened when Mark Dudley’s fierce shot was tipped around the post for a corner.
From the resultant corner a Saunders header was tipped onto the crossbar and out for yet another corner.
Rainworth continued to create chances as Hawkins, Edridge and Lloyd combined, only to be denied by some last ditch Mickleover tackling. Rainworth brought on Kieran Coupe for an injured Jason Gregory as they continued to search for the second goal.
In quick succession Longstaff had a shot easily saved by Martin.
Then in the 82nd minute Longstaff found Hawkins who set up Whitman, but his shot went wide when it seemed easier to score.
A minute later Rainworth were almost left to rue the miss when Aaron Webster thought he’d scored, only for Martin to produce a world class save at the expense of a corner.
As the defending became desperate Hawkins was shown a yellow card for pulling back an opponent.
Just as it seemed that Rainworth would hold out, Mickleover had one last push and won a corner.
From the resulting corner the ball found the head of Henry Sibenge for the equaliser and shortly afterwards the referee blew for full-time.
On this performance the future looks bright for Rainworth and in Regan Edridge and Jobe Shaw they have two stars of the future.
It would however be wrong to single out just two players in what had been a fine team performance.
Manager Rickards’ decision to pursue a youth policy in the final matches of the season had so nearly borne fruition against a very good Mickleover side.
RAINWORTH MW: Martin, Gregory (Coupe 70), Dudley, Lloyd, Shaw, Saunders, Edridge, Magee, Longstaff, Whitman, Hawkins. Subs not used: Williams: Rogers, Rickards, M. Clarke.
REFEREE: Alan Hull.
WRENS MAN OF THE MATCH: Regan Edridge.