Stockbridge Park Steels visit Butlin Road on Saturday
Rugby Town are back at Butlin Road once more this weekend looking to achieve what would be their first three league match span without a defeat when Stocksbridge are the visitors.
Last Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Basford was only the second time that Town have managed back-to-back unbeaten games in the current NPL campaign, and came a week on from their 3-2 success at Market Drayton.
Valley boss Gary Moran reflected on the two encouraging performances and results: “We had changed the way we set the team up at Market Drayton and we tried to add a little more grit into the mix. It worked well as we got those three early goals and then managed to see the game out – something we have struggled to do previously.
“On Saturday we were then able to put out the same eleven players out for the first time this season and I think it was evident the positive impact this has had.
“Basford are a technically gifted side, and whilst I accept we rode our luck at times, we had some decent chances of our own too and therefore I’d argue that we deserved the point.
“Louis (Connor’s) early penalty save definitely gave us a boost and also the confidence to believe that we could get something from the game. The work rate was again excellent, in fact I would go as far as saying that the effort and desire in the squad at the moment is the highest since I have been here.”
Moran is hoping that continuity of selection now becomes a feature of the remainder of the term. He said: “Performances earn the right to wear the shirt, and it would be nice if we can keep a settled side together for the final twelve games, as I’m sure we will reap the benefits.”
Despite the latest point gained, Town slipped back into the bottom two relegation zone after rivals Loughborough Dynamo enjoyed a 2-0 home win over Chasetown, whilst below them Northwich were registering a second successive goal-less home draw.
Moran continued: “We just need to concentrate on our performances and pick up as many victories and points as we can, and not worry about anyone else. Obviously the Butlin Road game against Loughborough in April is massive and hopefully we can make the most of the home advantage for that one.”
Saturday’s visitors Steels moved up a place to 13th in the NPL South Division table following a midweek victory, and the two sides played out a 0-0 in the reverse fixture at the Look Local Stadium back in October.
Town lost the two games against the South Yorkshire club last season, with late goals in both fixtures handing Stocksbridge the double.
Having finally managed back-to-back identical starting line-ups for the first time in 39 games, Moran’s only slight doubt for the weekend concerns midfielder Warren Brooks – who came off injured towards the end of the Basford draw.
He explained: “We are hoping that Warren is ok to play, as it was only a tightening of the hamstring on Saturday. Since he returned to the fold, he has certainly brought us an added presence in the past couple of games.”
Brooks originally made his Rugby debut in the home defeat against Lincoln in December. However he left the club and looked set to join the large contingent of players (currently standing at 13) who have made one (or less) starts in a Valley shirt this season.
# Town’s crucial away game at bottom-placed Northwich has been rearranged for Tuesday, April 4, after the originally scheduled encounter was unexpectedly postponed due to a waterlogged pitch three weeks ago.