RUGBY TOWN: It's the big Boxing Day top-of-the-table derby with Daventry
Away at Wellingborough Town in the meantime
The much anticipated local derby between Rugby Town and Daventry is on Boxing Day (Wednesday) afternoon at Butlin Road, when Carl Adams’s Valley side will be looking to reduce the gap between the two sides currently at the top of the UCL Premier Division table.
Rugby’s 2-1 win at Newport Pagnell last weekend coupled with Daventry’s inactivity due to a waterlogged Communications Park pitch cut the deficit to nine points - with the Northamptonshire club having played two games more than Town.
Ahead of this festive football feast, Rugby are back on the road again this Saturday with a trip to 12th-placed Wellingborough Town, whilst Daventry host 17th-placed Kirby Muxloe as they look to continue a flying start to the campaign that has seen them lose only once in 18 league outings to-date.
Valley’s latest success came courtesy of a Lewis Rankin double taking his league tally so far to nine goals in just 12 UCL starts.
The visitors were once more far from their best at the weekend, although the terrible weather conditions undoubtedly had a significant impact on that - with Town under the cosh against the wind in the first half, trailing to a goal from the hosts.
With the advantage of the wind behind the backs for the second period and also with the added benefit of playing most of it with a man extra following the dismissal of the home keeper, Rugby battled their way back to (in Adams’s previously used words) “win ugly” once more.
Weekend victories for Holbeach, Deeping and Pinchbeck ensured the division has not yet become a two-horse race though, with Rugby holding a three-point advantage over third-placed Holbeach and a five point one over the other two clubs.
Saturday’s hosts Wellingborough have won six, drawn four and lost six to enjoy a symmetrical season so far, and the Doughboys are one of the few teams in Valley’s new league where there is a substantial history of games, with ten in Southern League competitions and one Daventry Charity Cup tie between the two clubs over the years to look back on.
Wellingborough reformed in 2004 - having folded in the UCL Premier Division two years previously, and have worked their way back up to this level since then, recording a 14th placed finish last time out.
Boxing Day visitors Daventry come to Butlin Road for the first time in three seasons, having voluntarily taken a two step relegation at the end of the NPL Division One South 2015/16 term.
Dale Belford’s Rugby did the double over a struggling Daventry outfit that year, including a 4-0 Boxing Day away victory over them - which ended a dismal run of results for Valley at Communications Park previously.
Town’s record in the Christmas bank holiday fixture has generally been very good over recent years, with last season’s 3-1 defeat at Shepshed in the MFL a rare blot on the landscape.
Rugby have won eight of their last ten Boxing Day (or equivalent) matches, and the last time they dropped home points came as far back as 2001, when Erith & Belvedere returned back to Kent with a 2-0 Southern League Eastern Division victory.
Town continue their Christmas schedule with another home game next Saturday (29th) against Oadby.
Both Butlin Road fixtures will kick-off at 3pm.
# The club coach to Wellingborough on Saturday will leave from outside Rugby School at 11.40am and from Butlin Road at 12noon.
# The club will once more be supporting local homeless charity Hope4 this Christmas. Co-ordinated by Valley volunteer and VP member Tony Mann, there has traditionally been a collection of non-perishable and tinned food items in the final few games of the calendar year.
However with storage space now more limiting at the ground following the successful launch of the club’s academy in the summer, the emphasis has been shifted to cash donations instead - with representatives of the Newbold Road-based organisation due at Butlin Road for the Boxing Day fixture with collection boxes.
Tony explained: “Our supporters have been magnificent in their support of the charity in recent seasons and we have donated hundreds and hundreds of items, but this year we decided it would be more practical to collect in a different way.
“Our contributions have always been gratefully received by our friends at Hope4, and hopefully we can once more surpass our previous efforts to help them in their work again.”