Handy Andy back between the sticks

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One-time Valley favourite Andy Stevens has once more answered his old club’s emergency call, and will fill in for Rugby Town between the sticks this Saturday at Royston.

With regular keeper Dave Bevan serving a one-match ban after his recent sending-off at Guildford, Stevens – who made more than 90 appearances for Town in his two full seasons at Butlin Road – returns in the stop-gap role for the second year running.

Stevens won numerous player of the year awards in his time at Rugby - before leaving for Conference Premier Kidderminster in the summer of 2010, and he also deputised for the unavailable Bevan in the 3-3 home draw against Fleet last March.

Valley boss Dave Stringer is obviously grateful at having access to such a high calibre man to cover the specialist position.

He said: “Andy trained with us last week and will do so again this week, so hopefully he will be well-prepared for Saturday’s game.

“Royston will be a tough test for us, so it’s important that we have someone with Andy’s experience there in place of Dave.”

Stevens had been playing for UCL side Huntingdon in the first half of the season, although he has been out of action since leaving the Cambridgeshire club in the new year.

Royston have had a successful first year within the Southern League after winning the South Midlands League Premier title in 2011-12.

They are one of the other four teams who currently sit with Town in the promotion/play-off places, and Stringer was impressed by them when they met at Butlin Road in November and December.

He explained: “Royston are probably the best footballing side that we have come up against so far. They played the ball around particularly well in the first game which had to be abandoned, and I’m sure they will believe there is some unfinished business after we turned them over in the replayed one.”

Rugby won the second game 2-1 thanks to goals from Fazel Koriya and David Kolodynski, after the Hertfordshire side had been leading 1-0 when a floodlight failure brought a premature halt to proceedings originally.

Stringer was delighted to get another win on the board last Saturday against Chertsey, after the disappointment of back-to-back defeats at Guildford and Biggleswade the previous week.

He said: “It was cruel on us to have played so well in the two away games and have nothing to show for it, so it was important for the lads to bounce back quickly at the weekend.

“I thought we played some excellent stuff against Chertsey, especially in the first half when the gulf between the two sides was there for all to see.

“Despite that, we somehow went in at half-time level after they scored from their only real chance. Whilst we weren’t quite as fluent in the second half, we were always in the ascendancy and kept plugging away until the goal finally came.”

There are no further available places on the coach to Royston – which will leave the clubhouse at 11.30 a.m.
Rugby’s victory against Chertsey on Saturday saw them move back up to second in the Evostik Southern League Central Division, a position they then maintained after the midweek postponement of all six games scheduled in their division.