Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Retford United 0 v Rainworth Miners Welfare 4 - Notts Senior Cup SF

Tuesday 18th February
At Jones & Co. Solicitors Stadium/Cannon Park
Notts Senior Cup, Semi Final
Retford United (0) 0
Rainworth Miners Welfare (2) 4
Jack Hawkins 25
Jamie Clarke 40, 57
Ashley Longstaff 58
Admission £5, Programme £1.50, Attendance 96
Retford United:
Barford, Cooper (Hadley 57), Severn, Walkden, Sanderson (Mullen 57), Smith, O'Neill, Johnson, Medcalf (Cross 57), Stannard, Thompson.
Unused Subs: Muirhead, Holdsworth
Rainworth Miners Welfare:
Martin, Gregory (Rogers 73), Dudley, Lloyd, Varley, Eldridge, Rickards, Bowles, Longstaff (Forbes-Swindells 79), Hawkins.
Unused Sub: Saunders
And so Rainworth are through to this season's Notts Senior Cup final, where they will face the winners of the other semi final, between Carlton Town and Basford United, at a venue that, as of yet, hasn't been decided upon.
Retford had the better of the earlier exchanges and ought to have done more with several chances, but the Wrens keeper James Martin kept United's forwards well marshalled, with saves from Richard Medcalf, Reece Thompson and Andy Walkden, the latter of which was the closest United came to opening the scoring.
Rainworth had reason to feel aggrieved with the referee, Stuart Richardson, when he inadvertently blocked a clearance and set up an attack for the Badgers, from which Reece Thompson almost opened the scoring, but no harm was done.
The visitors had the ball in the back of the net, but the referee had already whistled for a foul on the Badgers keeper Jody Barford.
Jack Hawkins was at the butt end of several Retford supporters jokes, given that he is so small, but the "are you an oompa loompa?", "Don't you be late with my paper in the morning!" and "is that number 11 on your back your age shorty?" type jibes, were silenced, when he opened the scoring on 25 minutes, with an audacious chip from out on the right hand side of the United area, that went in off of the left hand upright. Some might say it was a fluke, but I've seen Jack in action many times for Mansfield Town Under 19s and can assure you all that it certainly wasn't.
He probably possesses more skill and pace than most other players who were out on the pitch tonight and it's highly amusing to see that he's been working on his upper body strength, so he can confound bigger and more physical opposition players who make themselves look daft when they struggle to knock him off his stride with a bit of hands on rough stuff.
By the end of the game, the jovial taunts had long since ceased, as Hawkins put in a man of the match shift, proving good the old Alan Ball adage, that "if you are good enough, then you are big enough".
Besides, the disgruntled Badgers fans, management and chairman, had another target to aim their vocal barbs at, long before the full time whistle went, namely Mr Richardson, the match referee.
But, in light of how many people seem to be accusing him of all manner of things, it needs to be asked; exactly how much was the referee to blame for Retford's defeat ... and more to the point how much where they actually responsible for their own downfall?
At 1-0, inside the last five minutes of the first half, there was very little to choose between the two sides.
It was still very much a case of 'game on', with everything to play for, but a rush of blood to the head by James O'Neill, threw a spanner in the works for his side, as they looked to get back on level terms before the interval.
His two footed tackle in the middle of the park, straight after he'd just bundled Jack Hawkins to the ground, merited a straight red card and that is exactly the punishment that the Retford skipper got for his recklessness.
Rainworth's Ashley Longstaff (a former Retford United player as it happens) was booked for retaliating to the foul, but having received a caution, he then followed O'Neill as he left the field of play and continued to take issue with him.
Hmm, one player deserved to walk, there is no question about that. But, if retaliation is a  straight red card offence in itself, then Longstaff can consider himself very fortunate that the game hadn't just become a ten aside encounter.
To my way of thinking, you don't repeat an offence you've already been booked for just moments before, without running an extremely high risk of getting your punishment doubled.
Retford's bench were incensed that Longstaff was still on the pitch and their mood wasn't helped when the visitors attacked straight from the restart and Jamie Clarke scored a second goal for Rainworth, after Regan Edridge had headed Scott Rickards hopeful punt into the box right into his path.
The ref came in for a lot of abuse as the teams left the field at half time, but though the red card had changed the course of the game, and if truth be told, probably ruined it as a spectacle now too, it wasn't the match official who'd gone in two footed and left his team a man down as a consequence, it was their own captain.
HT - Badgers 0 v Wrens 2
Left click for enlarged image
The extra man advantage told in the second half and Rainworth enjoyed a lot of possession as Retford struggled to cover their one man shortfall.
The game was effectively over as a contest just before the hour mark.
On 57 minutes, Longstaff's shot from just outside the area beat Barford via a deflection off of Jamie Clarke. The latter was credited with the goal.
"You shouldn't even be on the pitch number nine!" shouted out a disgruntled Badgers supporter as Rainworth celebrated on their way back to the half way line.
Within a minute, Scott Rickards picked Longstaff out with a defence splitting pass, Andy Walkden struggled to get his challenge in and Rainworth's "number nine" broke free and rolled the ball past Barford as he ran from his goal line to narrow the angle.
Longstaff looked straight at the spectator who'd just been bad mouthing him and gave him a thumbs up gesture.
Graeme Severn came close to pulling a goal back for the Badgers, but he put the ball over the bar from close range.
Right in front of the home sides dugout, several players were involved in a bit of a scrummage for possession, and as the ball broke loose and Rainworth advanced forward, Severn caught a stray arm across his face and went to ground.
The referee waved play on and didn't stop the game until the ball was put out of play so the Badgers defender could receive treatment.
If Mr Richardson wasn't already public enemy number one, in the eyes of a vociferous cluster of Retford United supporters and club officials stood near the dug outs, he was now.
It was the referee's call to determine whether he thought the knock in the face constituted a head injury or not and he was closer to the incident than any of the people who were now hurling abuse at him.
But personally, I would have thought that it would have been prudent to stop the game at this point anyway, or at least check with the player that he was OK before allowing play to carry on, because at 4-0 a stoppage would hardly have had any influence on the final outcome of the game now.
That is not a criticism of the referee, I hasten to add, because I don't actually subscribe to the theory that he was the actual villain of the piece (or peace) tonight.
It transpired that Severn had a bloody nose, very painful, but thankfully nothing more serious.
As the game ebbed away towards its inevitable conclusion, it must've been as painful as a smack in the nose to watch for the Retford supporters.
Rainworth enjoyed a spell where they virtually practised keeping possession in and around the final third and United were having a frustrating time of it and were struggling to make any kind of impression on the game now.
Both sets of supporters were happy to hear the final whistle, as the visitors rejoiced and the Badgers fans were grateful to have been put out of their misery.
FT - Retford United 0 v Rainworth Miners Welfare 4
In closing, a quick plug for a Race Night that is being held on 14th March 2014, at the Elms Hotel on London Road in Retford, by the Retford United Supporters Club, to raise funds for RUFC.
It's a Friday night, I know you're not doing anything special, so get yourselves along.