Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Butlin Road
PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Valley’s diamond jubilee celebrations kicked off at Butlin Road on Sunday, when two teams of footballing legends took part in an entertaining affair.
Around 200 spectators watched a Leicester City line-up ultimately edge out the VS Rugby Town hosts by four goals to three, with ex-Foxes and Aston Villa man Julian Joachim striking the decisive blow just two minutes from the end of the game.
The match was the first of series of events to recognise the club’s first competitive match as Valley Sports on September 8, 1956.
And while the hairlines and body shapes have undoubtedly shifted over the years, participants from both sides proved at the weekend that the ability is still there in abundance.
Rugby arguably had the better of the opening exchanges, with striker Robbie Beard still proving that he can be a thorn in the side of opposing defences, and Liam O’Neill and Steve Evans looking energised and assured in the centre of the park.
Having seen Beard draw a penalty after just four minutes, Valley full-back Paul O’Brien saw his spot-kick saved by Carl Muggleton, with Danny Finlay also testing the Foxes keeper with a decent volley shortly after.
However, it was a Leicester side – which also included the familiar faces of Muzzy Izzet, Steve Guppy, Matt Piper and Scott Oakes – that look the lead on 19 minutes when ex-Valley man Chris Freestone, who was guesting for them, slid one past Dale Belford.
Kasabian guitarist Chris Edwards made it two shortly after when he beat the Rugby offside trap to beat Belford again with a composed finish, although Belford did then pull off a neat stop to deny Joachim another as the visitors threaten to run riot.
Rugby gave themselves a lifeline though going into the interval, when Beard rose well to head home Chris Tullin’s cross from the right, before a quickfire three goal exchange towards the start of the second half saw the score level at 3-3.
First Andy Commander smashed one home at close quarters to equalise, before Beard applied an exquisite dink over the oncoming Muggleton to give his team the lead. However Joachim’s rapid thinking meant the advantage was short-lived when he curled in a free-kick from the edge of the box.
With the combined legs visibly starting to slow as the Sunday afternoon sun started to take its toll, Mark Rosegreen did hit the bar and then steer the rebound attempt himself wide with Rugby’s best chance of a winner.
However it was Leicester that ended the game the stronger with both Izzet and Guppy shooting wide, before they got the reward when the game’s stand-out player Joachim beat replacement keeper Paul Batchelor to grab his second.
Rugby line-up: Belford, O’Brien, Commander, Herbert, Clarke, Evans, Tullin, O’Neill, Beard, Finlay, Staff. Subs: Batchelor, Sullivan, Hart, Hardwick, Rosegreen
Leicester line-up: Muggleton, Oakes, Hebberd, Watts, Budd, Guppy, Freestone, Munroe, Edwards, Joachim, Piper. Sub: Izzet, Wright, Naughton, Walsh