Out of three cups - it’s back to league

Ed Booth in the mix against Stafford
Ed Booth in the mix against Stafford

Rugby Town’s attentions finally shift back to the league this weekend, after more than a month’s break from duty in the Central Division of the Evostik Southern competition.

Town visit Beaconsfield SYCOB on Saturday 32 days since their last league outing – a 1-0 victory at Barton.

In that time they have been knocked out of three cup competitions - the latest coming in Tuesday evening’s narrow FA Trophy reverse after a replay at Stafford.

The Stafford defeat was an exact replica of Valley’s FA Cup exit against Bedworth three weeks earlier, where Town had also played out a 1-1 draw against higher level opponents in the first game at Butlin Road – before going out of the competition to a solitary winning goal in extra-time.

Rugby boss Dave Stringer must therefore quickly pick-up his side after the disappointment in the Black Country, as he enters a busy October.

The Stafford game was the first of nine games in the month, with Town in action every Tuesday and Saturday throughout – including seven Southern League fixtures.

Following on from Saturday’s trip to Beaconsfield, Valley then host Woodford on Tuesday (9th), before another home game a week on Saturday (13th) against current joint leaders in the division Guildford.

Rugby last visited SYCOB’s Holloways Park ground towards the end of last season, where they could only grind out a 0-0 draw when they were desperate for points in their ultimately unsuccessful push for a play-off place.

The Rams are currently ninth in the table – four places and four points ahead of Town, although their latest league outing should give Stringer some encouragement, after they were thrashed 6-0 at Hayes last weekend.

Valley’s strike force will have to be in better form than of late though, having registered just three goals in their last seven matches.

With Seb Hamilton having retired because of a knee injury, Tyrone Fagan a target for neighbours Daventry and Rob Foster already departed, Stringer will no doubt be looking to bolster his attacking options in the near future.

Youth Team striker Nik Evangelinos may also see his game time increase as a result of the dearth of both forwards and goals.

Stringer did add midfielder Steve Palmer to his squad last week, and he featured in both Stafford games – including a full 120 minutes in the replay.

Palmer returns to Town from Rushall after a short spell at the club last season, where he scored the winning goal in his only start against Daventry in the Southern League Cup.

Stringer has also lined-up another midfield returnee in the shape of Sam Youngs, and is hoping to complete the signing of the player who made more than thirty appearances in the 2009-10 season over the coming week.

Michael Williams completed his three match suspension last weekend for his recent sending off at Daventry, but was still unavailable for Tuesday’s replay because of injury. However Stringer is hopeful that he will be fit for the Beaconsfield game. He should also have Richard Blythe back in the fold, after the midfielder once more missed a midweek game through work commitments.

Next Tuesday’s visitors to Butlin Road Woodford have made a terrible start to the new league campaign, with six defeats from their opening six games – and they prop up the table as a result.

Rugby have yet to lose to the Northamptonshire club in a competitive fixture over a long history of games between the two sides – including three draws and two victories in the five matches in Southern League competitions over the past couple of seasons.

# The coach to Beaconsfield will leave the clubhouse at 11.30 a.m. Please contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366 for latest availability information.