RUGBY TOWN: Another Rankin brace keeps town in the race
Valley forced to play most of game at Wellingborough with ten men
PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
United Counties League - Premier Division
Wellingborough Town 1 Rugby Town 2
Lewis Rankin’s first half double strike helped ten man Town to another hard-fought win at the Dog and Duck ground last Saturday.
Rugby were a player short for the majority of the game after defender Liam Francis was controversially handed a straight red card, but for the second weekend running a Rankin brace settled things in Valley’s favour.
Josh Steele, Dom Perkins and Harry Holloway all started for Rugby in three changes from the previous fixture at Newport Pagnell, and the visitors settled well from the off - creating all the chances in the opening quarter of an hour of the game.
Rankin was at the heart of Town’s early promise, first having a shot blocked in the box and then teasing a cross into the danger zone - but Danico Johnson was just unable to take advantage of it.
Johnson also had a further shot taken low down by Doughboys’ keeper Bradley Lashley, with Holloway bouncing one the wrong side of the post, ahead of Francis’s dismissal for a late tackle on Giuseppe Freitas.
Holloway then presented Ty Clark with a great opportunity to open the scoring when he misplaced a back-pass, but the Wellingborough striker screwed his effort wide of the frame.
Rugby’s midfielder redeemed himself not long after though with a neat turn and incisive pass to release Rankin, who - despite seeing his initial strike saved by Lashley - followed up to convert the loose ball.
The advantage was doubled on 39 minutes when Johnson held the ball up well, before slipping it to Rankin to apply a powerful finish that Lashley could only get a hand to.
The hosts struck back almost immediately though, when Valley keeper Matt Hill parried Danny Mortimer’s shot from the edge of the area, and Freitas pounced to score from close range.
There was still time for a golden Rugby chance before the interval, when Loyiso Recci lifted Rankin’s corner over from point blank range.
The second half was less eventful, although there was further muddled officiating early into it when Recci was dubiously penalised for a high foot in the box, but referee Matthew Jackson awarded an indirect free-kick rather than the anticipated spot-kick.
The home side’s set-piece routine saw the ball strike the steadfast Town wall - a trait which nicely described the visitors’ defensive abilities from there on too.
Rankin then had a great chance to complete a hat-trick, but Lashley was off his line quickly to deny him when he was clean through, with the home keeper also keeping out Johnson’s follow up effort to complete a fine double save.
Lewis Hayden lifted one over the bar after he had cut back from the byline and Johnson shot straight at Lashley, as Valley continued to threaten mainly on the counter.
Wellingborough finally started to make their lion’s share of possession count as the game neared its conclusion though, and Hill did well to tip Justin Dowling’s strike over.
Jake Gillingwater should have done better with a free header late the game and Hill ensured the points returned back to Warwickshire with a well-executed low save to Carlos Lewis powerful strike which bounced up off the greasy turf just in front of the keeper.