Leaders Rugby v second placed Dunstable at Butlin Road, ko 3pm
It’s first against second on Saturday at Butlin Road, as Rugby Town look to improve or at least maintain their advantage over Dunstable in the Calor Central Division.
With only one automatic promotion place up for grabs for the league champions and Town boss Dave Stringer desperate to avoid what he regards as “the lottery” of the end of season play-offs, a Valley victory would provide a timely and potentially crucial boost to their title bid.
Last weekend’s disappointing 3-1 defeat at Uxbridge meant that Rugby missed out on the chance to extend the current three point differential between them and the Duns to six, with the Bedfordshire club also out of luck at home to Barton - suffering their fifth loss in six matches in the process.
3rd placed Slough also went down unexpectedly at home to Egham on Tuesday evening and are now nine behind Town from the same number of games played, although local rivals Daventry could still emerge as a real threat to the top two as they continue to catch-up on their fixture backlog.
The Northamptonshire club were due to travel to Aylesbury United on Wednesday knowing that a victory would move them back up into fourth and ten points short of Valley – still with six games in-hand over them.
Dunstable’s recent poor form has come after a seventeen match unbeaten run in the league, which included a comprehensive 3-0 win over Rugby in the reverse fixture at Creasey Park in November.
Having regained promotion to the Southern League structure at the end of last season following a record breaking 2012/13 South Midlands League campaign which saw them go undefeated throughout, many then tipped Dunstable for the 2013/14 Central Division gong.
Their recent slump has coincided with a five match suspension for their main striker Lee Roache – who was twice on target in November’s game. Roache will still be missing for this weekend’s fixture, along with two other banned team-mates Daniel Ryan and Kyle Anthony.
On the other hand, Rugby should welcome back Nathan Haines, after the central defender served the final game of his three match ban at Uxbridge.
Town’s back-line has certainly looked less secure in Haines’s absence, especially in last Saturday’s defeat – where Seb Lake-Gaskin’s 23rd goal of the season had initially given Town a second half lead.
That goal made it eight in seven games for the in-form Town striker, and both he and strike partner David Kolodynski will need to be on their ‘A’ game if Rugby are to avenge for the Creasey Park loss.
Dunstable’s last visit to Butlin Road was back in October 2004, where current Valley man Justin Marsden was on-target in a 2-2 draw.
Following on from Saturday’s vital match-up, Town are then due to travel to Middlesex on Tuesday evening – where they will face the division’s bottom side Ashford.
Ashford are seven points adrift at the foot of the table, with only two campaign victories to-date – having also conceded 81 times in their 28 games.
To their credit, they have earned themselves draws from their last two matches at Aylesbury and Royston though, and they also gave a decent account of themselves in the reverse fixture at Butlin Road in October – where a solitary Kolodynski strike settled the game.
# Tuesday’s coach to Ashford will leave the clubhouse at 4.30pm. For latest information regarding availability of places, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.