FOOTBALL: FA Cup trip to Hereford

Jamie Towers in the Marlow game
Jamie Towers in the Marlow game
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Break from league action after jittery start

Rugby Town’s attention turns to the FA Cup this weekend, when they will make the 180 mile round trip to Hereford to face Westfields FC in the competition’s Preliminary Round.

The normal proliferation of knock-out fixtures at this time of the season can often be detrimental to the main business in the Southern League, but with Valley having made a decidedly jittery start to their Central Division campaign so far – it may actually prove to be a welcome distraction for a change.

After the Bank Holiday weekend matches - which saw Town only earn one point from the six available, Dave Stringer’s side are now an unaccustomed lowly 15th place in the table.

Stringer is understandably not happy with his side’s performances in their first six games, offering up the concise three word summary of “not good enough” to describe Rugby’s opening few weeks of the season.

He then continued with a more expansive view: “We’ve clearly not met the standards that we have set for ourselves over the last couple of seasons.

“We’ve done okay for certain parts of certain matches, but in general over the ninety minutes as a whole, we have come up short.

“We know in this division that you have to earn the right to win matches and we just haven’t done that to-date. Therefore it’s important that our work rate is at the highest possible level, and this is something we will be focusing on in training this week.”

Stringer was speaking after Town had followed up last Saturday’s disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Marlow, with a 1-1 draw in the local derby at Bedworth two days later.

He added: “Monday was another classic case of a game that we should have won though. They probably shaded the first half, but we were far better in the second and created a number of good chances.

“Hopefully that second half performance can kick start the season as a whole now, and we can go on and challenge higher in the table.”

However first Rugby must face Midland Football League Premier Division (formerly the Midland Alliance) Westfields, and will be looking to dispatch lower level opposition for the third season in succession at this stage of the competition, following on from the victories against Norton and Studley in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

Founded in 1966, the Fields are currently eighth in their league – having finished in twelfth last time round.

Stringer is hoping to utilise his contacts to gain a better understanding of the opposition ahead of the weekend trip to Allpay Park.

He said: “I’ll be making a few phone calls to managers in their league this week to get a bit of background on them, but we know from previous years’ experience that these ties can be a bit of a banana skin – so it’s important we go into it fully prepared and with no complacency.

“Having said that, despite the fact we will be missing a few players on Saturday, I am still confident that we have got enough to get through on the day.”

Town will be without Richard Blythe – who starts his three match ban for his recent sending off against Hayes, with fellow midfielder Lewis McBride also unavailable again due to work commitments which Stringer describes as an issue “for the foreseeable future”.

Marcel Simpson will be back in the squad having returned from holiday, and the Valley boss is hoping that international clearance will finally be received from the F.A. for full-back Alex Austin – which could in turn release summer signing Will Grocott to occupy his preferred midfield role in the absence of Blythe and McBride.

Stringer is also looking to add one or two more players to his squad following last week’s departure of Nathan Fox to Stamford.

Fox signed for the club in December 2013 and went on to impress for the remainder of the campaign in the left-back berth. He started this season in a more advanced role however, scoring in both of Rugby’s opening games.

# If Saturday’s tie is drawn, the replay would take place next Tuesday (2nd September) at Butlin Road at 7.45 p.m., with the First Round Qualifying draw having been made the previous day.

# The coach to Westfields will leave the clubhouse at 11.30 a.m. For latest information regarding availability of places, contact Tony Mann 07970 691366.

# Town return to league action the following Saturday (6th), when they travel to Hanwell to face the newly promoted London-based side, before hosting local rivals Daventry on the Tuesday (9th).