Nine teams still in with a chance of making five promotion places
Rugby Town now face fifteen more games that will shape the fate of their 2013/14 campaign, starting with the visit of Royston to Butlin Road this Saturday.
Valley missed out on a great chance of boosting their chances of securing the only automatic promotion place available at the summit of the Calor League Central Division last weekend, when a late winner from Beaconsfield cruelly denied them of any return from the home fixture.
The 95th minute strike came after the visitors had shown little sign of the form that had seen them build a twelve match unbeaten run ahead of last Saturday, and was even more galling considering current table toppers Dunstable then went on to suffer their first defeat in eighteen in their midweek game at Barton.
The two results mean there is no change at the top, with Dunstable remaining a point ahead of Town with an additional game in-hand.
The chasing pack have pulled a little closer however, and 3rd and 4th placed cohabitants Slough and Beaconsfield are now eleven points adrift of Valley.
In total there are nine teams still in with a shout of ending up in the crucial top five places – i.e. the automatically promoted champions and four play-off slots – with Saturday’s visitors Royston joining Barton, Daventry, Northwood and Kettering in the overall equation.
5th placed Royston are another side in the middle of an impressive unbeaten run in the league, with new manager Steve Castle – a veteran of nearly 500 Football League appearances for a number of professional clubs - enjoying a good start to his tenure at the club following the resignation of Paul Attfield in December.
The Crows have gone eight games without a Calor defeat, a run which included a 1-0 success over Rugby in the reverse fixture in December.
Saturday will mark Royston’s third visit to Butlin Road following their elevation to this level of the non-league pyramid for the first time in their history in 2012. However, the first of those trips ended in an abandoned game due to floodlight failure – with the away side a goal to the good.
Dave Stringer’s side then came out on top in the rearranged game, with goals from Fazel Koriya and David Kolodynski securing the victory.
There was then more controversy in last season’s return fixture when Royston - a man light due to an earlier sending off and losing 1-0 – refused to complete the game after a serious injury to Town skipper Robbie Banks.
Previous boss Attfield was apparently at the centre of that questionable decision, but fortunately the Southern League ruled in Rugby’s favour and the points were later awarded to them.
Royston warmed up for the weekend’s clash with a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Aylesbury United on Tuesday – a win which saw them reach the quarter-finals of the Red Insure League Cup competition.
Much of Rugby’s destiny this season may rest on the shoulders of impressive strike duo Kolodynski and Seb Lake-Gaskin.
The pair have already recorded 44 goals between them in all competitions, and Kolodynski passed the hundred mark in Southern League games during his recent hat-trick at Chertsey – his ninth treble in a Valley shirt.
Stringer will be hoping that recent signing Jamie Towers has recovered from the hamstring injury that has ruled him out of the last two matches, whilst Justin Marsden should be in contention for a place in the starting line-up this weekend, as he continues to progress well in his comeback from a dislocated shoulder.
# Following on from Saturday’s home game, Town then travel to bottom side Ashford next Saturday and struggling Aylesbury FC the following Tuesday (18th), before returning to Butlin Road for the home match against another side near the foot of the table Leighton on February 22nd.