Encouraging warm-up performances against higher level opposition
Rugby Town 2 Leamington FC 4
Rugby Town 1 Brackley Town 0
Rugby Town boss Dave Stringer will surely be hoping he can sort out a deal for the trialling Greg Kaziboni, after the ex-Northampton Town and Corby wide man impressed in Valley’s two pre-season friendlies over the past week.
20 year-old Kaziboni smashed home the only goal of the game to secure a late winner against Conference North Brackley on Tuesday evening at Butlin Road, after putting in an initial good performance in last Friday’s 4-2 home defeat to Leamington - another side who will ply their trade two levels above Rugby next season.
In both games, Town showed plenty of glimpses of the form that saw them break a number of club records last season. With influential midfielder Sam Belcher also making an unexpected return to action from the bench in the Brackley victory, hopes will be high that the club can go one better this time round and regain their Southern League Premier Division status at the fourth attempt.
Tuesday’s opponents Brackley had finished third in their division in 2012/13, narrowly missing out on a place in the Conference Premier after a 1-0 play-off defeat against FC Halifax.
The majority of that squad were on show at Butlin Road, but it was Stringer’s side that dominated from the off – with Michael Williams and Alex Gudger both going close early on, and Kaziboni also drawing a fine save from experienced keeper Billy Turley.
David Kolodynski then struck the woodwork for the first of three occasions with a bobbling effort from the edge of the area, a feat he repeated shortly after when he lifted the ball onto the post from close range after Gudger’s initial goalbound header had been blocked.
The visitors threatened rarely, although Rugby’s stand-in keeper Ross Etheridge – a first year professional from Derby County – did have to be on his guard to keep out a well-struck shot by Marvin Robinson.
The second period continued with the same pattern, with the hosts creating a number of good chances.
Seb Lake-Gaskin and Williams both tested Turley, before Kolodynski again somehow hit the frame from in front of an empty net after Lake-Gaskin had done particularly well on the right-hand side.
All Town’s good work looked as if it had been in vain when Brackley were then awarded a penalty, after Belcher was dispossessed on the edge of the box and Etheridge brought down Adrian Schab as a result.
Etheridge was down well to his right though to keep out Eddie Odhiambo’s spot-kick, with Sam Youngs then unable to apply a clinical finish at the other end after good work by Kaziboni.
In the final few minutes of the game Valley got their just rewards though, when Kaziboni finished off a neat passing move with an excellent strike into the corner of the net.
Against Leamington three days earlier, Rugby had more than held their own for large parts of the game against the current Southern League Premier Division champions - who also put out a strong starting line-up including ex-Aston Villa striker Stefan Moore.
Moore’s two goals in the early exchanges of the second half proved to be the difference in the end, although Town were left rueing a number of squandered opportunities in the first period in particular.
Kolodynski headed over and Justin Marsden also struck a good chance off-target, before the Brakes took the lead when Jamie Towers followed up on Moore’s shot which Etheridge had pushed onto the bar to give his side the lead on 24 minutes.
The dangerous Kaziboni struck the base of the post, before Kolodynski made amends for his earlier miss when he headed home Richard Blythe’s cross.
Leamington were back ahead before the interval though, when Liam Daly’s free-kick eluded Etheridge, and then Moore’s double strike put the game out of Town’s reach.
Mason Rowley also rattled the woodwork with a header, before Rugby triallist Sheldon Dodd gave the scoreline a more respectable look to it with a late consolation – his second goal of the warm-up campaign, following on from his great strike against Barwell.
# Next-up for Town is another home friendly this Saturday, with Northern Premier League Stamford – managed by ex-Valley favourite David Staff – the visitors for a 3pm. kick-off. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.
# Rugby have completed the signing of full-back Lewis Bishop. 20 year-old Bishop last played at this level in 2011/12 for Daventry Town, and he made his Valley bow featuring as a substitute against both Leamington and Brackley.
Pictured: David Kolodynski and Seb Lake-Gaskin
Pictures by Martin Pulley