FOOTBALL: New season in new league for new-look Town

Craig Kelly against Barwell on Saturday   PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Craig Kelly against Barwell on Saturday PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Trip to Loughborough on Saturday, Gresley visit on Tuesday

Rugby Town’s new manager Gary Mills is hopeful that his side will overcome the goal drought that has hampered their pre-season preparations, when they kick-off their first ever campaign in the NPL this Saturday at Loughborough Dynamo.

Callum Powell

Callum Powell

Last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to Barwell meant it was six hours of friendly action on the main Butlin Road pitch without a goal for the new-look Valley line-up, as they followed up on similar solitary strike losses to a Northampton Town XI and King’s Lynn, in addition to the previous two goal reverse against Solihull.

Triallist Will Muzuimbiri’s effort in the 1-1 draw Cogenhoe back on July 11th therefore remains Town’s only goal on grass in five attempts, although they did manage eleven more on the Butlin Road artificial surface in two comfortable warm-up victories against the Strachan Foundation and Continental Star.

Mills reflected on the pre-season campaign: “Defensively we have looked okay, but I accept that we have struggled a little on the attacking front – especially in terms of opening up the opposition.

“We have been improving gradually though, and I’m learning about the lads all of the time. We created a few decent chances on Saturday, and David Kolodynski was unlucky on a couple of occasions. I’m sure that once he and we get going with one goal then plenty of others will follow.”

Dan Clifton

Dan Clifton

Mills was hoping to confirm the availability of Northampton Town youth duo Sam Warburton and Danny Clifton ahead of the Loughborough trip, but he admitted that he was still looking to add to player tally.

He continued: “The squad is still a little light, so I’m hoping we can bring one or two more pretty soon. I have spoken to Northampton boss Chris Wilder to try and tie up Sam and Danny, but I think we still need another striking option and a creative midfielder too – perhaps as a wide player.”

Goalkeeper Scott Dutton has signed for Town, having started the last three friendlies, with Neil Collett now likely to depart to join his previous boss Dave Stringer at Chasetown.

19 year-old Dutton was released by Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of last season, having also had a brief spell at Kettering last month.

Rob Parker

Rob Parker

Mills himself made a first start in pre-season against Barwell, playing the majority of the game in a central midfield role.

He explained: “We thought that we could do with a little more experience and know-how out there, and even though I’ve not done as much pre-season work as I would have hoped, the legs feel surprisingly okay afterwards, so we will discuss if that’s an option again for the Loughborough game.

“The lads have worked hard for us in pre-season, but we accept it is difficult to get virtually a brand new set of players to gel together that quickly.

“It’s hard to do that successfully when you’re full-time and with half the changes, so when you only get the chance to work with a group that’s unfamiliar with each other only twice a week, it’s a real challenge.

Steve Towers

Steve Towers

“There are some positive signs out there for us though, and if we can stick together and stick to the plan and structure that we have laid down, we hope we can be challenging in the top end of the division come the end of the season.”

First-up for Mills is the trip to the Nanpantan Sports Ground, where Town will face a Dynamo side that finished 14th in the NPL – South Division in 2014/15.

Rugby then play host to Gresley on Tuesday (18th) evening, with the 2009 reformed outfit having just missed out on promotion last time out after a play-off semi-final defeat.

# The club coach to Loughborough will leave Butlin Road at 12 noon. For latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.

Rugby Town 0 Northampton Town XI 1

Town fell to a narrow Butlin Road pre-season friendly defeat last Wednesday, this time against a youthful Cobblers XI.

David Kolodynski

David Kolodynski

The home side once more struggled offensively, falling to a solitary strike late in the game when Robbie Parsons dinked one past Neil Collett.

Callum Powell squandered a couple of gilt edged chances for the home side in the first half – including dragging one effort wide early in the game, before Mills made wholesale changes near the start of the second half.

Kelly’s long range free-kick flew over the bar, with Shaquelle Master clipping the bar for Northampton just before Parsons flicked home a cross from Shaun McWilliams on 78 minutes for the winner.

There was an appearance from the bench for former Northampton Town and Kettering Town striker Lewis Wilson, and he perhaps spurned Valley’s best chance of the game when clean through but his heavy touch allowed the goalkeeper to smother.

Rugby Town 0 Barwell 1

Rugby rounded off their warm-up campaign last Saturday with another one goal reverse, with the experienced defender Guy Hadland sealing the victory for NPL Premier Division Barwell with a first-half strike.

Town could have been ahead with just thirty seconds on the clock, when David Kolodynski almost broke through on goal, and it was Rugby’s leading senior goalscorer that went on to have the best opportunities for the home side as the game progressed.

Twice in the second half he was picked out by excellently lofted passes from Gary Mills, but on the first occasion Kolodynski failed to make a proper connection and then with the later chance, he lifted the ball onto the crossbar.

The game’s deciding moment had come on nineteen minutes when Hadland powerfully volleyed home from close range, after Alex Tomkinson had picked him out with a corner.

Kolodynski’s strike partner Tom Liversedge also had a couple of good chances for Valley in the first period, with both Ryan Walker and Harry Holloway putting their efforts wide of the target in the second.