RUGBY TOWN: Opening week of season

Sam Belcher in action against Bedworth in Town's final friendly
Sam Belcher in action against Bedworth in Town's final friendly
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Aylesbury and Potters Bar Town first opponents

FOURTH TIME LUCKY FOR TOWN?

Nearly three and a half months on from their disappointing 3-1 play-off final defeat against Biggleswade in front of more than 1100 fans at Butlin Road, Rugby Town kick-off a fourth successive attempt at returning to the newly-sponsored Calor League Premier Division this weekend.

The return to competitive action in the Central Division at Aylesbury United on Saturday comes on the back of a highly encouraging pre-season campaign which saw seven wins in eight games played on all surfaces, including successes over three teams – Barwell, Stamford and Brackley – placed above them in the non-league pyramid.

Rugby are now the longest-serving current members of the Southern League structure, as they prepare to launch into their 31st consecutive season there. Ironically their first ever game in the league was also a trip to United in 1983, when Valley won 2-1 thanks to a goal from Derek Owen and John McGinty’s penalty.

Town then host Potters Bar – one of seven newcomers to the division this season – on Tuesday (20th) evening, with everyone at the club hoping to continue 2012/13’s form – which saw many records broken on the way to a 2nd place finish.

Valley Director Mike Yeats said: “It was a great effort from the team and there was some excellent football on show at Butlin Road throughout the year, so to have promotion denied at the final hurdle was so cruel.

“However it was great that so many of the townsfolk came along for the play-off games, and hopefully some of them will be back again this time round to help push us on that stage further.

“We would also welcome any Coventry City supporters looking for their football fix. It’s a real shame what is happening to their club at the moment and hopefully it can be ultimately sorted, but in the meantime if they want a substitute Sky Blues to cheer on, we’ve got a great facility here at Butlin Road for them to do so.”

Manager Dave Stringer has worked hard to keep most of last season’s squad at the club, and goes into the 2013/14 campaign with just three main changes to his personnel.

Keeper Dave Bevan, full-back Alex Austin and winger Fazel Koriya have been replaced by Niall Cooper, Lewis Bishop and Justin Marsden respectively.

Stringer’s options have been boosted further by the return from injury of key men Craig Kelly and Sam Belcher – both of whom missed the run-in last time out, with Robbie Banks also hoping to make a return before the year is out.

# The coach to the Aylesbury game (played at Leighton Town’s ground) will leave the clubhouse at 12 mid-day. For latest information regarding availability, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.

# Admission to Town’s home games will remain at £8 for adults and £4 for concessions this season – the sixth consecutive campaign that prices will have stayed at this level. Saturday matches kick-off at 3 p.m. and midweek ones at 7.45pm.