Fans reflect on what could - or perhaps should - have been
Rugby Town’s players, management, officials and supporters were once more left to reflect on what could – and perhaps should – have been, following the disappointment of the club missing out in the Southern League Central play-offs for the second successive season, writes Jon Venner.
Having had to settle for the runners-up spot in the regular campaign – again for a second time on the trot – Valley succumbed to Slough at Butlin Road on Tuesday evening in a one-off semi-final, nearly a year on from their defeat in the final to Biggleswade.
Town went into the weekend knowing that a victory at Hayes and any dropped points by leaders Dunstable would see them secure automatic promotion as divisional champions.
Rugby kept their side of the bargain with a comfortable 6-0 win, but unfortunately for them Chris Marsh’s strike for Dunstable midway through the first half settled affairs at Creasey Park against Uxbridge, and threw Town into the relative lottery of the end of season knock-out competition instead.
Three second-half Slough goals handed the visitors the victory on Tuesday, as Valley again failed to do themselves justice on the big occasion, meaning that all the hard work of the previous eight months was left unrewarded.
Just a single point separated Town from title winners Dunstable in the end, and whilst it would be easy to highlight Rugby’s poor form in March - which saw them win just twice in seven attempts – as the main contributory factor, other specific incidents will also stand-out, including the points dropped in twice conceding stoppage time goals in the home games against Kettering and Beaconsfield.
Town boss Dave Stringer had acknowledged recently that this season’s situation was markedly different from the previous one, in so far as his team had been well-placed to secure the title but had failed to kick-on when given the opportunity to do so – as opposed to 2012/13 when they were always playing catch-up to an impressive Burnham side.
Rugby had lost only seven games in the 2013/14 season (one less than in 2012/13) and also managed to hit the 100 league goal mark for the second successive time thanks to their sixth at Hayes – which was also David Kolodynski’s 36th strike of the league campaign, cementing his place at the top of the division’s scoring charts.
Whether Stringer has the heart for another promotion push in 2014/15 of course remains to be seen. He has now overseen three seasons in the Central Division as a manager and one as assistant to Martin Sockett – with 6th placed finishes in 2010/11 and 2011/12 preceding the back-to-back runners-up spots.
# In the other play-off semi-final, Kettering beat Daventry 1-0, meaning they will now face a home final against Slough on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5th.
# The club’s annual presentation evening will be held in VS Bar on Friday, May 9th.