RUGBY TOWN: Big FA Cup weekend

Sam Youngs in action against Chalfont (Picture by Martin Pulley)
Sam Youngs in action against Chalfont (Picture by Martin Pulley)
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Visit to Conference North side Worcester City

If Rugby Town are to progress any further in the FA Cup this season, they will have to raise their game in the Second Qualifying Round this weekend.

Valley make the trip to Conference North Worcester City in a rerun of last year’s Third Qualifying Round fixture – which the opposition won after a replay at Butlin Road.

However Town were left ruing a series of missed opportunities from the original tie at Aggborough, where they had surprised the higher level City with a particularly strong first half performance.

Unfortunately that day they were unable to translate this into goals, and the game ultimately ended 0-0, with two second half Worcester strikes – including a disputed penalty – going on to settle the replay.

City had been regular opponents for Rugby in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, in which time Valley generally held the upper hand with 9 wins and 3 draws from the 17 Southern League match-ups between the two sides.

Similar to Town, Worcester’s start to this campaign has been inconsistent and they currently sit in 15th in the Conference North table – following last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Fylde.

Their 2014/15 form at the ground they share with landlords Kidderminster Harriers is reasonable though, where they are unbeaten in their five games, although their lack of success in front of goal has limited them to just nine goals in all their opening eleven outings to-date.

Rugby boss Dave Stringer should have both Craig Kelly and Jamie Towers back in contention again, after the pair both missed last Saturday’s draw at Chalfont due to work commitments – with Seb Lake-Gaskin also hopefully back to full fitness, after he put in a starring role from the bench in that game.

Stringer is still beset with problems with regard to the goalkeeping spot, with all three incumbents this season – Nick Bennion, Joe Mellings and Niall Cooper – carrying injuries of varying nature.

Bennion returned to the starting line-up at Chalfont, after last season’s ever present Cooper had been drafted in at late notice as cover in Town’s excellent win in the previous round of the FA Cup at Chasetown.

The Chalfont draw left Valley in 13th place in the table – a disappointing start for a team that has finished runners-up in both of the previous two seasons.

The league’s Central Division is already shaping up to be a much more even affair this time round, with Rugby still only five points adrift of the final play-off position – currently occupied by Bedworth. However Town are now ten shy of leaders Kettering’s points tally – despite the pre-season title favourite’s defeat at Marlow at the weekend.

# If Saturday’s FA Cup game is drawn, the two sides would face a replay at Butlin Road on Tuesday evening – with a 7.45 kick-off. However assuming a positive outcome either way, Town will instead line-up for a Birmingham Senior Cup First Round tie against a team from Football League Two Burton Albion at the same day/time and venue.

# The club coach to Worcester on Saturday will leave Butlin Road at 11.30am. For latest information regarding availability of places, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.

# Rugby return to league action a week Saturday (4th October) with a trip to Egham, closely followed by another away fixture at Barton three days later.