RUGBY TOWN: Relegation fight continues with trip to Belper

Levi Rowley in Saturday's late 1-0 defeat by Stocksbridge   PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Levi Rowley in Saturday's late 1-0 defeat by Stocksbridge PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Valley must win as bottom club Northwich keep closing gap

Having failed to stretch their unbeaten run to three matches against Stocksbridge at the weekend, Rugby Town travel to Belper on Saturday still fighting for their lives near the foot of the Evostik NPL South Division.

Scott Hadland in last weekend's game at Butlin Road

Scott Hadland in last weekend's game at Butlin Road

Valley were beaten by an 82nd-minute goal at Butlin Road, when the visitors scrambled one home to settle what had been an even encounter – the third time in two seasons that Jamie Vardy’s old team have scored late on to snatch a league victory over Town.

The two matches in the 2015-16 season saw Steels strike in the 93rd and 87th minute respectively to do the double over Dale Belford’s side, although Rugby did at least manage to grind out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture at the Look Local Stadium earlier this campaign.

Town’s late despair on Saturday was the seventh time this season that they have conceded winners in the closing ten minutes of a league fixture, although four of these defeats did come in its opening couple of months.

Rugby remain in the relegation zone in 21st place following the latest reverse, with the gap between them and 20th Loughborough still just two points, after the Leicestershire club lost 2-1 at Basford.

However bottom side Northwich edged closer to Valley after they stretched their unbeaten run to three matches with a 2-0 win at Gresley, and they are now just two points behind Valley with two games in hand over Gary Moran’s men.

This weekend’s fixtures see Loughborough home to title challengers Witton and Northwich host mid-table Lincoln United, whilst Town travel to 15th placed Nailers hoping to emulate their successes there last season when they won twice at Christchurch Meadow.

A 4-2 league cup victory there in October 2015 was followed by a 2-0 one in the league three months later, with David Kolodynski grabbing braces in both games.

Moran will of course be hoping for a similar achievement by Town’s leading all-time senior goalscorer this weekend, with the striker also looking to atone for missing a gilt-edged opportunity against Stocksbridge on Saturday, when he steered the ball wide of the goal from a great position early in the second half.

Belper have won just once in their seven outings so far this calendar year and look set for a second successive bottom half of the table finish following their relegation from the NPL Premier Division at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.

The Derbyshire club won the reverse fixture this season at Butlin Road thanks to a 55th minute penalty by Reuben Wiggins-Thomas, with the striker stroking the spot-kick past Louis Connor for the only goal of the game after he himself was adjudged to have been fouled in the box.

# The coach to Belper will leave the clubhouse at 11.15am. For latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.

# There will be a special viewing session for Valley’s past and present players, officials and supporters of the “Our Sporting Life” exhibition at the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum next Saturday morning (March 4). The exhibits on display include memorabilia from the club’s history.