Rugby Town make the trip to Cheshire this weekend to face Nantwich Town in the FA Cup first qualifying round, writes Neil Melvin.
Rugby needed a replay to get through the first tie against Norton United but Evo-Stik Northern Premier side Nantwich will be expected to provide a sterner obstacle to navigate than lower-league Norton.
Nantwich have made a slow start to the season but they recorded a 5-1 win away to Stocksbridge Park Steels last weekend to kick start their season and send them into the cup tie with Rugby in confident mood.
The FA Cup tie brings a break from league action where Rugby lost heavily at Butlin Road last weekend against Slough Town in an event-filled game which saw a missed penalty, a red card for either side and four goals - unfortunately all for the visiting team. The game marked the first time Valley have suffered back-to-back league defeats in 22 games. Local rivals Daventry also won at the weekend meaning they have maintained their 100 per cent start and are already 11 points ahead of Valley leaving Dave Stringer’s men a lot of ground to make up.
Stringer was left deeply disappointed by the Slough defeat and pointed to individual mistakes currently costing his young side points: “We are going through a difficult spell as a team at the moment but we must stop making these individual errors – no team can legislate or plan for gifting the opposition a two- or three-goal lead with individual mistakes.
“I have confidence in these players to get through this sticky patch and for us to start winning games, we have a very good squad and they have certainly not become bad players overnight. I believe we just need to get a win under our belts and the rest will follow.”
It is not all doom and gloom for Valley on the league front when the start to last season’s successful campaign is considered. Rugby have now made an identical start to last campaign with two wins and two defeats from the first five games; of course last season Valley went to narrowly miss out on winning the league so there is hope and expectation that Town will turn the situation around.
To play a team from a higher division in the FA Cup has been something of a rarity in recent years for Valley. You have to go back to 2008 to find Rugby’s last meeting with higher-league opposition as a Third Qualifying Round trip to Bishop’s Stortford ended in defeat when a late penalty conceded by Delroy Gordon crushed Rugby’s dreams of a home replay against the Conference North side. Indeed, Rugby have not beaten higher league opposition in the FA Cup for 20 years – Ian King scored twice in a 2-1 away win in the Fourth Qualifying Round Replay against Harrow Borough which gave Valley a home tie with Brentford in the First Round Proper in front of over 3,000 fans at Butlin Road. The Brentford tie was also Valley’s last appearance in the post-qualifying stages of the competition.
On the player front Rugby will welcome back winger Lewis McBride who missed last Saturday’s game through work commitments but striker David Kolodynski (hamstring) and midfielder Sam Belcher (knee) are both doubts through injury.
l The coach to the Nantwich will leave the clubhouse at 11.30 a.m., and the one to Kettering at 5.30 pm - assuming there is no cup replay on the Tuesday evening. For latest information egarding availability, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.
l Town’s game at St Ives has been rearranged for Tuesday 24th September. If Saturday’s cup tie against Nantwich is drawn the replay will be played at Butlin Road on Tuesday 17th September, kick-off 7.45pm.