Kirklington Road, Rainworth. 7/2/17
Nottinghmshire Senior Cup, Semi Final.
This must be cup season for Non League as we seem to be leaving the bread and butter of the league regularly for our midweek jaunts. This time it was down Mansfield way to scratch Rainworth’s Kirklington Road from the list. Things are starting to heat up in ‘cup season’ as we are getting to the business end and a place in the final awaits the winner between Northern Counties East side Rainworth Miners Welfare and Northen Premier Division One outfit Basford United. A place in the final of the Notts Senior Cup was up for grabs, a new competition for us to add to our growing list of county and national cups. So far we have seen The FA Trophy, Integro League Cup, Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup, West Yorkshire Senior Cup and Derbyshire Senior Cup. It would be great to get to the finals of all these competitions, we already have the Non League Finals day at Wembley pencilled in and are hoping for Lincoln or York to be Trophy finalists and Cleethorpes Town to get to the Vase Final. If all goes to plan my students will be filming the Sheffield and Hallamshire Cup final which is usually played at one of the big South Yorkshire grounds, possibly Bramall Lane. The other regional cups also have their final hosted at one of the big local grounds so the glory hunter in me hopes that fixtures fall nicely and we get to a few of them.
Basford United are the current holders of this competition having won the trophy for the past two seasons and were strong favourites going into this game, last time out they finished a creditable fourth placed finish in their first season in the Northern Premier League South and are currently sitting sixth in the league. It hasn’t always been this way though, The Wrens were a NPL side only two seasons ago while Basford were competing in the Midland League, Paul Fryer writes in the programme that when they played in the 2012 trophy Basford were the standout side in the Midland League and were destined for bigger things, by the end of 2014/15 Basford had earned promotion to the NPL while Rainworth were aked to take ‘voluntary relegation’. Both teams have history, Basford formed in 1900 while Rainworth were founded in 1922. I much prefer to see two teams that have been around than a relatively new outfit, I also really like Rainworth’s club badge – the Davy Lamp in homage to their mining roots.
The trip down to Nottinghamshire is becoming quite frequent, we really are spreading our wings, straight onto the A1 and past familiar haunts Ollerton and Clipstone, it really doesn’t seem two minutes ago since we watched Clipstone and I had the CT scan the day after.
We find the ground relatively easily and whack the car in the Miners Welfare car park. Opposite is the Rainworth Miners Welfare Social Club, a splendid looking building that I imagine was the hub of this village in days gone by. The welcome in the programme invites the visitors over to the Welfare for post match drinks and chats, I hope some of the opposition fans and representatives take them up on the offer, I’m not sure whether they will as it is absolutely baltic outside, mind you a nice pint of Mild would warm the cockles right up.
Two huge billboards have the clubs name under their current advertisements, another sign welcomes you to Kirklington Road. The signage is impressive and gives a real identity to the ground. The floodies light up the night sky which is still and oh so clear, it is going to be a cold one.
Two iron gates sit open as we make our way through the turnstile, Ken pays us in and I get the programmes and a teamsheet.
The clubhouse sits behind the goal as we walk in, running down the far touchline is a covered terrace with hard standing. To our left is a series of portacabins that house the Director’s Hospitality, Manger’s office and Press Office. Stretching either side of the half way line is a seated terrace where we head.
Just to the right of the Wren’s T-Bar is a bizarre row of seating that is built into the grassy knoll, it has four rows of thirteen black plastic seats…I love it. To the side of it is another Rainworth MWFC sign. I say to Ken that it’d be nice to ‘chill’ on that piece of grass with a nice beer in the height of summer but I later see a sign that forbids spectators on the embankment, sad times.
Teams out and the match gets underway. Rainworth start on the front foot, two minutes in the NCEL side went close. Matty Sykes fizzed a ball in and defender Jack Weatherall stretched to touch it in, unfortunately he didn’t make contact the danger was averted.
Kieran Wells then capitalised on a defensive mix up for Basford, his shot from 18 yards sailed over the bar though. Sykes was looking lively, Matt Harris nodded down into his path but Jake Wood managed to get enough on it to save the goal. Ten minutes later Kieran Wells blazed over from 15 yards after the ball had bounced up to him. Rainworth were definitely in this game and defending stoutly against the industrious Wells.
On the half hour mark Jordan Claxton floated a lovely ball into the box but Rainworth striker Harris misjudged his free header and once again Basford were off the hook. Basford then had the ball in the net, Wells touching the ball delicately over Ben Townsend in the Wrens’ net only to be flagged offside.
On 35 minutes Townsend pulled of an unbelievable save from Wells’ close range header, the Wrens’ keeper tipping the ball over at full stretch, one for the cameras Ben.
Half time and a freezing 0-0, the cold hadn’t deterred the infant hit squad stood behind me chatting throughout the half. At one point one of the youths had stated that he sits with the hard lads at Forest, cool beans.
Just before the break we headed to the Wrens T-Bar, two brilliant ladies were serving behind the counter and were doing a fantastic job. Pie and peas and a brew for me, just a pie for Ken. Even though he’s been up North for most of his adult life he still doesn’t have peas with his pie (shakes head). The vounteers behind the counter were whipping orders out at an unbelievable speed, five minutes in and everyone was served, happy with their bovril and half time feast. My favourite thing of the half time experience was the tea served in proper mugs, great effort! There were also a load of teamsheets from previous matches and programmes from all over the country. Superb stuff, another great set up that more people should be involved with. My two pies and two brews cost about six quid, you’d struggle to get one pie for that at ‘the highest level’.
The one thing we were missing though was goals, it was a bit too cold and too far away for the prospect of extra time and penalties. I have never left a game that early before, unlike my old man and his pals who left a Doncaster Rovers vs Leeds League Cup tie before extra time even started, they just wanted to get home, it must be their age.
The Basford manager, former Peterborough forward Martin Carruthers must have had stern words at half time as the game changed in the second half, Basford’s quality shone through.
It needed to shine through as well, about then minutes in a cloud of smoke filled the ground. Turns out a neighbour had a giant fire in their back garden, it was one of the strangest things I have ever seen at a football match. The smoke set in like an eerie mist, hanging over the pitch as it lingered for some time. Tyrelle Shannon-Lewis scuffed a shot wide, possibly due to smoke inhilation.
On 65 minutes the deadlock was broken and it was one of the impressive Rainworth centre backs at fault. With Jamie Walker flying into the box Connor Griffin stuck a boot out and tripped the left back. Ben Hutchinson put the ball on the spot and stuck the penno past Townsend into the top right.
United continued their pressure and in the main the Wren’s stood up to the challenge. The game had turned on its head but Rainworth were proving a stubborn foe thanks in the main to the centre back pairing of Griffin and Weatherall. While the former gave away the first penalty it was the latter who conceded a second in the final minute. Weatherall was on a booking after bringing down Kyle Dixon with the most professional of professional fouls. The ref saw sense though and didn’t brandish the second yellow as Wetherall hacked down Courey Grantham. Hutchinson scored from the spot again and sent a handful of Basford fans (who had been quiet all game) into delirium. “We’re going to the final, you’re not you’re not” was the original chant from the fanatics from just outside Nottingham.
Full time and a brisk walk back to the car to warm up, I had been impressed with Rainworth, the club and the ground. Although we did have a telling off from the ladies in the T-Bar, next time we will bring our crockery back sooner, I promise.