Last season when these two teams met Lincoln did the double over Rainworth, including achieving their first win of the season on their visit to Kirklington Road. Rainworth were therefore under no illusions as to what was required in tonight’s game.
This was never going to be a classic, Lincoln are a big strong side and get the ball forward at every opportunity, and tonight they had the better of the early exchanges. However it was Rainworth who broke the deadlock when in the 7th minute Ashley Longstaffe’s header found debutant Christopher Palmer on the edge of the area and his fiercely hit shot found the bottom corner.
Lincoln nearly equalised in the 10th minute when former ‘Wren’ Sean Cann’s mazy run and shot was well saved by James Martin’s legs. The game was frenetic with both sides using the long throw as an attacking weapon, without either finding the finishing touch. Matt Varley’s shot cum cross in the 21st minute was tipped over for a corner. This was so nearly followed a minute later with a Lincoln goal as Sam Wilkinson put the ball in the net only for it to be ruled offside.
As the game got more stretched Palmer’s free kick was just headed over by Jason Gregory, whilst Sean Wright’s shot on the turn gave Rainworth a fright. In the 39th minute a moment of controversy when from a Lincoln quick break, Sam Saunders for once missed the ball, Cann pounced and as he tried to round Martin he fell, the referee however was quick to dismiss the penalty appeals. The half-time whistle went with Lincoln wondering how they were trailing by the only goal of the half.
Lincoln continued were they left off and Simon Mowbray hit his shot over the bar, having been played on by a Rainworth deflection. Shortly afterwards Rainworth’s Scott Rogers came on for Jack Hawkins to replace tired legs. Then after Martin fumbled the ball Ben Brown hit his shot wide, although he had been flagged offside.
It was nearly all Lincoln now and Mowbray’s shot was only inches over the bar, in fairness Rainworth’s rear guard for the most part were coping. In an attempt to replenish their attacking options Rainworth brought on Jamie Brown for Joe Flint. In the 71st minute, man-of-the-match, Matt Varley who seemed to be at the centre of everything was booked for a mistimed tackle. A minute later in a rare attack Brown’s pace outflanked the Lincoln defence and after making room he placed his shot wide of the keeper and into the net.
Brown almost doubled his goal tally when only a desperate tackle deflected his goal bound shot. Lincoln were now laying siege to the Rainworth goal, but a combination of good defending and luck was keeping them at bay. Rainworth replaced Gregory with Kieran Walker as they sought to maintain a clean sheet. Just when it seemed they would succeed Rogers conceded a penalty for a deliberate handball. Danny Brooks stepped up and gave Martin no chance, to set up a nail biting finale.
Lincoln thought they had equalised when the ball looked goal bound only for Martin and then Varley somehow managed to get their bodies in the way. The final whistle went and Rainworth celebrated a famous rear guard action, were everybody played their part.
In earlier matches Rainworth have lost having dominated every statistic except the goals scored, today’s game was a complete reversal but yielded the three points. Although better suited to a passing game, today they matched their opponent’s physicality which augers well for the days when it will be needed in the battles to come.
RAINWORTH; Martin; Gregory (Walker 83); Dudley; Lloyd; Varley; Saunders; Hanson; Palmer; Flint (Brown 67); Hawkins (Rogers 60). Subs (not used); Cullingworth; Buttle.
Referee; Stuart Richardson.
Man of Match: Matt Varley