Back in action on the FA Trophy trail

Craig Kelly

Craig Kelly

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Rugby Town return to action this weekend at Butlin Road to face Stafford Rangers of the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division in the FA Trophy First Qualifying Round.

After a ten-day rest, the cup action continues and Dave Stringer’s men will be keen to make progress against their higher-league opponents Stafford who currently sit in mid-table although they have only suffered only one league defeat to date.

Both Stafford and Rugby earned a bye in the Preliminary Round which was played earlier in the month to set up this weekend’s encounter.

Valley had to sit out of action on Saturday with the FA Cup in action which saw Rugby’s conquerors Bedworth United falling to Barwell in the Second Qualifying Round and there was a good omen as Stafford lost away to lower-league side Gresley.

Last season Rugby were knocked out of the FA Trophy at the first hurdle after a replay against Sutton Coldfield while the season before Valley won two games in the competition before suffering a late defeat to Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division opponents Stocksbridge Park Steels.

It is nearly 14 years since the two sides last met in a competitive match.

Darren Beckett and Ashley Warner were on target for Rugby in a 2-3 defeat to Rangers in December 1998 in front of a 199 crowd at Butlin Road in the Southern League Midland Division.

Since that time Stafford have been on a rollercoaster in the non-league pyramid spending two seasons in the Blue Square Premier Conference National between 2006 and 2008 before suffering two relegations in four seasons to find themselves back in the Northern League.

This week, Town have moved to sign left back Craig Kelly on a contract until the end of the season after impressing in his opening games for the club.

Rugby-born Craig joins goalkeeper David Bevan and striker Seb Lake-Gaskin as a contracted player.

The 24-year-old Kelly, a former Coventry City trainee, joined Rugby from Long Buckby in the summer and has already been influential with two man-of-the-match awards and two assists to his name in nine games so far.

In other team news, winger Michael Williams is still unavailable as he serves the last of his three-game ban for his sending off back in August at Daventry while Ross Miller and Richard Blythe should return to the squad after missing the last game against Nuneaton Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup.

n Kick-off on Saturday is at 3pm at Butlin Road, admission from 1pm.

Tickets available on the gate £8 for adults and £4 for OAPs and under 16s.

n Meanwhile Rugby’s postponed league match with Thatcham Town has now been re-arranged for Tuesday, October 30 at Butlin Road, kick-off 7.45pm.