RUGBY TOWN: Out of drop zone and two home games ahead

Player-manager Gary Moran against Market Drayton  PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Player-manager Gary Moran against Market Drayton PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Victory over Market Drayton lifts Valley to third from bottom

With the long wait for an away win now over following their 3-2 success at Market Drayton last weekend, Rugby Town return to Butlin Road to host play-off chasing Basford United this Saturday.

Levi Rowley made a welcome return from injury on Saturday

Levi Rowley made a welcome return from injury on Saturday

The rare three-point haul lifted Valley back out of a NPL Division South relegation zone that they have spent more than two thirds of the season stuck in and also ended a 14-game (and 161 day) search for a victory on the road in all competitions.

With the team immediately above – Loughborough Dynamo – having their match at Shaw Lane postponed, Town sneaked past them on goal difference, whilst the gap between Rugby and bottom club Northwich also increased to five points, after the Cheshire club could only draw at home to Stamford on Sunday.

However back-to-back wins for 19th placed Carlton over the past week has given them a nine-point cushion over Rugby and Loughborough – further reinforcing the likelihood that the two teams for the drop will come from the current bottom three.

This Saturday’s opponents sit just below the play-off places after their draw at Romulus last weekend kept them in sixth spot in the table,

Chris Sterling in Rugby's 3-2 win

Chris Sterling in Rugby's 3-2 win

And the Nottingham-based club will be looking to complete a quickfire double over Valley on the back of their comfortable 4-0 home victory less than a month ago.

Rugby had put in an encouraging first half performance on United’s 3G artificial pitch then, but capitulated after the interval – a demise which included the sending off of Callum Burgess for violent conduct.

Burgess sits out the final game of his subsequent three match ban this weekend, and with just four players (Kyle Rowley, David Kolodynski, Chris Sterling and Trey Brathwaite) starting the Market Drayton victory that also started at Basford last month, it is likely to be a much changed line-up for the return fixture.

Rugby boss Gary Moran may have Anthony Charles, Aaron Moses-Garvey and Ryan Quinn available for selection again though after they all missed the Shropshire trek, with Mitchell Thomson also having completed his suspension and therefore back in contention.

Moran was pressed back into action himself after the recent departure of Callum Westwood to divisional counterparts AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Westwood had impressed at full-back in his three appearances in Town colours – including a game against his new club at the Dog and Duck stadium.

However the switch proved to be an unlucky one for the ex-Northampton Town and Kettering youngster, after his Rushden debut lasted little more than half an hour due to a bad ankle injury.

Following on from Saturday’s home game against Basford, Rugby are back at Butlin Road the following weekend too when Stocksbridge Park Steels are the visitors – before rounding off the month of February with a trip to Belper.