When you desperately need to kickstart your season, visiting a team who are in a run of league form, five wins and a draw, is not the one you would choose to begin that revival.
Therefore Rainworth MW’s narrow 2-1 NPL defeat away at Lincoln United on Saturday was hard to take in a game that saw both sides have periods of dominance.
Games of this nature are usually decided by small margins and on Saturday they favoured the home team.
The Division One South game kicked off with Lincoln United having the slope and wind advantage, which meant they were soon into their stride.
Their first attempt on goal came in the fourth minute, but Kallum Smith’s blocked shot was easily gathered by Liam Roberts.
In the 15th minute Shaun Wright’s clipped header was even closer but went the wrong side of the post.
Rainworth did threaten when in the 17th minute Alex Ford’s cross was just missed by Matt Millns with the goal gaping.
A minute later and Theo Brown’s cross was played on by Ford, but Alex Kenlock’s effort was always going wide.
Rainworth went even closer in the 19th minute when Craig Mitchell’s through ball found Matt Jones and Robert Peet was a relieved keeper when his shot flashed the wrong side of the post.
Play was stopped to treat Kenlock, who had been injured in the build-up, and after several minutes he was stretchered off with concussion.
Rainworth brought on Tristram Whitman in his place, but the injury seemed to force Rainworth on the back foot.
In this period Andrew Hutchinson hit a couple of great crosses, but debutant Alistair Asher was able to diffuse both at the expense of corners.
Lincoln almost took the lead in the 35th minute when Scott Ruthuen’s goalbound shot was well saved by Roberts and Smith’s follow-up went well over.
Rainworth came back yet again and, when Mitchell found Jones, his shot was always going over.
Ford almost broke the deadlock but, having made room for the shot, Peet was equal to it and saved at the expense of a corner.
A minute later and Lincoln were relieved to see the ball eventually go over the bar after a sustained spell of Rainworth pressure.
The half ended when firstly Hutchinson was denied as his effort was smothered by Roberts and then Michael Jacklin met a ball pumped into the area, but could only put it wide.
With neither side able to trouble the scoreboard, Rainworth were just about worth it for their battling performance.
That, however, was undone in the 50th minute when a moment of good fortune favoured Lincoln. Milln’s clearance struck the prostrate Hutchinson and rebounded into the path of Ruthuen.
But there was nothing fortuitous about his finish as he ran through on goal and slotted it past Roberts.
A couple of minutes later a long clearance upfield found Ruthuen again and, with Roberts off his line, the lob looped over him for the second goal.
Rainworth could have felt sorry for themselves but instead they went on the attack.
The 55th minute saw them at their best when Theo Brown’s shot was only parried by Peet and it fell to Ford.
With three defenders and the keeper between him and the goal, he showed how lethal a striker he is when he placed the ball into the bottom corner.
What followed was a period of sustained Rainworth pressure and in the 65th minute Whitman’s effort beat the keeper but flashed the wrong side of the upright.
Minutes later Ford was unlucky when the ball took an age to come down and Lincoln were relieved to clear it at the expense of a corner.
Mark Camm’s effort was always going over as Rainworth made their last two substitutions, bringing on Jamie Brown for Mitchell and debutant Will Rawdon for Matt Jones.
In the dying minutes Lincoln must have thought they had scored their third when Andy Toyne’s goalbound effort was brilliantly saved by Roberts.
In added time Rainworth thought they had won a penalty when Jamie Brown was brought down, but the referee awarded a free kick virtually on the line of the area.
This was the final act of a half that had finished with Lincoln defending for their lives.
On this display Lincoln must be outsiders for a play-off spot and Rainworth surely aren’t that far away from turning around their season.
RAINWORTH: Roberts, Asher, T. Brown, Hannigan, Millns, Freeman, Jones (Rawdon), Camm, Kenlock (Whitman), Ford, Mitchell (J. Brown). Subs not used: J. Andrews, Rennalls.
Referee: Neil Guest.