RUGBY TOWN: Play-off hopes hanging by a thread

Rugby's Star Man at Daventry was Craig Kelly   PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Rugby's Star Man at Daventry was Craig Kelly PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Valley must win last game and hope Barton Rovers slip up

Rugby Town’s end-of-season fate now lies out of their own hands going into the final weekend of the regular Southern League Central Division campaign, writes Jon Venner.

Richard Gregory in last weekend's derby defeat

Richard Gregory in last weekend's derby defeat

Valley’s prospects of a third successive appearance in the play-offs diminished at the weekend, after they fell to a 2-0 defeat at Daventry whilst the other challengers for the final play-off berth Barton Rovers were winning elsewhere.

The damage was done within a six minute spell, with Rovers’ striker Russell Bull grabbing 75th and 78th minute strikes to turnaround a 2-1 deficit at Hanwell, just ahead of Rugby conceding the first goal in the 81st minute of their local derby. Daventry’s second shortly after rounded off a thoroughly miserable afternoon for Dave Stringer’s side, and Stringer will be anxiously checking Barton’s fortunes at Aylesbury United, whilst his men look for a home victory against the division’s in-form side Royston this Saturday.

Rugby are now two points adrift of Barton, having gone into the weekend a point to the good, and with an identical goal difference they must hope that Rovers draw or lose at 13th placed United, whilst ensuring a full return from their own fixture, if they are to be in action next Tuesday (28th) in the semi-final of the promotion knock-outs.

Bedworth confirmed their place in the play-offs with victory at Northwood on Tuesday evening, joining Royston and Aylesbury FC as potential semi-final opponents for Town, with any game guaranteed to be an away one for Valley.

Will Grocott at Communications Park

Will Grocott at Communications Park

Grabbing a maximum against Royston on Saturday will be no small task, although the Hertfordshire club’s run of nine straight league victories did come to an end last time out after a 0-0 home draw against Chalfont.

However the Crows are still unbeaten in thirteen matches, after a run of form which has propelled them from outsiders for the play-offs into the side currently closest to champions Kettering.

Stringer will therefore have to lift his side for one final push for glory and hope the gods are looking favourably on him at Bell Close, and he will also be hoping that Justin Marsden is available again after the striker missed the Daventry clash.

On a positive note, Valley have come out on top in the two previous Butlin Road games between the two clubs – including last season’s 6-1 thumping home win. In the reverse fixture on the opening day of this campaign, Royston did edge a 2-1 victory though.

Sam Youngs put in a huge effort against Daventry

Sam Youngs put in a huge effort against Daventry

Barton’s opponents Aylesbury United are without a home league win in more than two months, whilst Rovers’ success at Hanwell ended the Bedfordshire club’s run of two defeats.

# For the latest information regarding fixture and travel schedule in the event of Town qualifying for next Tuesday’s play-offs, log onto www.rugbytownfc.com

Robbie Burns in the Daventry game

Robbie Burns in the Daventry game