Trip to Marlow next
With 12 games of their league campaign remaining, Rugby Town’s victory at Leighton last Saturday leaves them well-placed for a third consecutive appearance in the end-of-season play-offs.
Valley’s latest success strengthened their fourth place table position, although manager Dave Stringer conceded that the division’s top spot – and with it an automatic promotion – is probably now beyond his side.
Stringer commented: “We’re eight points off the leaders, and realistically that’s now out of reach – especially considering there are two other teams ahead of us too. But we have to stay focused and accumulate as many points as we can from the remaining fixtures.
“At this time of the season, it’s more about results than performances, but I thought we were excellent in the second half against Leighton and could easily have won by two or three more goals in the end.
“Admittedly we were not at it in the first half, but a few choice words at half-time seemed to have the desired effect and also the substitutions made a difference, so I was pleased with the way the lads responded.”
Next up for Town is a trip to the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground to face a Marlow side currently 13th in the Evostik Southern League Central Division.
Stringer is likely to have a fully-fit squad at his disposal for the game, with the only previous absentee Craig Kelly hoping to be available again after having missed the last two matches with an infected toe.
The Town boss reflected on his new-found embarrassment of riches: “A few weeks we were down to the bare bones, and the team virtually picked itself.
“Now we have everyone back, it means that tough decisions have to be made each match. The problem is that everyone thinks they should be playing, so it’s hard to keep them all happy. On the flip side, we saw at the weekend the benefits of having such a strong bench at our disposal.
“Hopefully we can keep this squad together for the remainder of the season, and finish off the job that we have come so close to in the previous two years. Our loyal fans deserve this for the support they have given us.”
Rugby lost the reverse fixture between this weekend’s opponents back in August, when Mason Rowley’s opening goal was topped by one in each half from the Buckinghamshire side. This 2-1 defeat ended a run of six straight league victories in the head-to-head record, including last season’s game at Marlow when hat-tricks from both David Kolodynski and Jared Cunniff saw Valley romp to a 6-2 win.
It looks like Stringer will see out the remainder of the campaign a man light on the touchline though, after assistant-manager Craig Herbert departed the club last week.
Valley stalwart Herbert had only returned to Stringer’s backroom team at the start of the season after a break from the role due to family commitments in 2013/14, but has now decided to leave once more.
Stringer was full of praise for the man who also racked up more than 300 appearances in a Rugby shirt in a ten year playing career at Butlin Road.
He said: “It’s disappointing that Craig has decided that he can’t continue. He’s been a fantastic servant of the club, and a great right hand man and friend to me in his two spells in my management team.
“With only twelve games to go, it would be difficult to expect someone to be able to come in to fill that role and settle quickly enough, so it’s likely that we will just complete the season as we are.”
# Kettering’s 2-1 home win against Hayes at the weekend saw them establish a three point lead at the top of Town’s table, with the main chasers Bedworth and Aylesbury FC both kicking their heels after their respective games were postponed.
This Saturday, Kettering are scheduled to face Aylesbury at Latimer Park, whilst Bedworth host sixth place Barton Rovers – whose 7-1 hammering of Daventry on Tuesday evening stepped up the pressure on the teams currently sitting in the play-off zone.
Rovers’ win puts them five points behind Rugby, but with two games in hand. The two sides meet at Butlin Road on March 21st.
# The coach to Marlow on Saturday will leave the clubhouse at 11.15 a.m. For latest information on this, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.