RUGBY TOWN: Trip to Leek then Daventry here on Tuesday

Rugby Town manager Dale Belford  PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Rugby Town manager Dale Belford PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Manager Belford fuming about Easter Monday postponement

Despite the bizarre late postponement of the Easter Monday home derby against Daventry, Rugby Town still managed to edge up a further place in the Evo-Stik NPL South Division table to seventh over the holiday period.

After Valley’s 5-1 thrashing of Romulus on Good Friday, Dale Belford’s side were likely to have been in buoyant mood going into the match against their local rivals only for the game to be called off on Sunday evening due to the Northamptonshire club’s apparent inability to raise a team for the fixture.

Daventry’s season has been in steady decline over recent months and their 5-0 loss at home to Kidsgrove on Saturday marked a 13th straight defeat for them in the league, prompting their manager Darran Foster and his assistant Neil Champelovier to quit, with Darran’s brother Nigel – the club secretary – also following them out of the door.

Rugby secretary Doug Wilkins confirmed that he was approached on the Sunday with news that there may be problems: “Daventry’s match secretary intimated to me that they were struggling to get a side together and potentially only had five players, and then the league confirmed the cancellation later that evening.”

Town boss Dale Belford was left fuming by the late call-off, he said: “I’m disappointed to say the least. It’s an embarrassment all-round and a ridiculous situation at this level of football.

“I can’t quite understand how you can have a squad of fourteen players for a game on a Saturday and then are not able to get seven for one two days later – it’s park pitch type stuff.”

He continued: “I appreciate that there have been difficulties at Daventry for quite a while and ultimately we will just get on with things and try our best to turn it into a positive, but I’m sure that things could have been handled much better by all parties concerned.

“When I was manager at Atherstone, we literally had no money to work with, but we always got a team together whatever the situation was in the build-up to the game.”

The NPL quickly announced a rearrangement of the game for next Tuesday (April 5), with Daventry also due to host Stocksbridge this Saturday – whilst trying to recruit a new manager to replace Foster as quickly as they can.

Understandably Belford has some doubts whether these fixtures will be fulfilled: “I can’t see how they are going to get a team together now, unless the league or the FA change or bend the rules – as the deadline has now passed for signing on new players.

“To be honest, I feel sorry for the likes of Goole and Loughborough who are down near the bottom fighting for survival alongside Daventry, and for us it increases the strain on the small playing squad even further by adding another game onto April’s schedule, but I’m sure that this group of players that we have will respond well to the challenge.”

# Town now face seven games within 21 days as they seek to complete what would be a remarkable turnaround from their struggles near the foot of the table earlier in the campaign.

Ahead of next Tuesday’s rearranged visit of Daventry, the first of Town’s seven match run-in sees them travel to Leek for what is now a fifth away game in a row.

Belford reviewed the previous four trips which generated two wins (at Gresley and Romulus), a draw (at Spalding) and a last gasp to defeat to title challengers Shaw Lane: “It’s been a very tough run of fixtures, but once more we showed that we are more than a match for anyone in this league.

“There has been a definite and conscious shift in our approach recently, as we know that draws at this stage just won’t be enough, and as a result the games have generally been more open.

“This doesn’t always pay off as we saw at Shaw Lane, but we know that to get into that last play-off spot that we have to be brave, positive and go for victories. It puts a bit more pressure on the keeper and back four for sure, but we’re ‘fastening our seat belts’ and seeing how high we can climb!”

# Saturday’s opponents Leek are level on points with Valley, but sit one place below them due to an inferior goal difference.

Six points ahead of Town in sixth are Chasetown – who have played two games more though and fifth placed Lincoln a further point on.

Rugby visit both clubs as part of their busy April schedule.

# The club coach to Leek will leave Butlin Road at 11 am.

# Speaking to the Daventry Express after his resignation, departing manager Foster explained: “I should be feeling sorry but I don’t because of what Neil Champelovier and I have gone through in the last few months.

“We tried to resurrect Daventry Town after the difficulties they had last season but we didn’t get enough support from within the club.

“It became too difficult for my family in the end. We only took the job on because we love the football side of it but it became too much in the end.

“We tried everything we could to keep it going but in the end we were having nine players available on a Friday night and you can’t have that at this level.

“We spoke about the situation a few weeks ago but decided to try and work through it.

“I was promised that the transfer embargo would be lifted a few weeks ago. But in the end we were having to gamble on players we knew nothing about just to get a team out. We went from being around the play-offs to down in the relegation area in a matter of a few weeks. It’s a shame for the loyal players that have stuck with us.

“I don’t know what the future holds for the club.”