Valley left to reflect on sixth-place finish in league
Rugby Town missed out on the end of season promotion play-offs following last weekend’s results in the Southern League Central Division.
Town’s home defeat to Royston along with a Barton Rovers win at Aylesbury United condemned Valley to a sixth year at step four of the non-league football pyramid, with manager Dave Stringer citing “inconsistency” as the explanation for this latest near miss.
Rugby finished the season one place out of the play-off zone in sixth – repeating the achievement of their first two campaigns back in this division in 2010/11 and 2011/12. Back-to-back runners-up finishes in 2012/13 and 2013/14 ended in respective play-off final and semi-final defeats.
Stringer reflected on this latest setback: “Of course, we are all disappointed. The real low came last weekend after the defeat at Daventry meant it was out of our hands going into the final weekend, and the central theme to our season has been a lack of consistency.
“In certain games we were fantastic, but I’m afraid we were unable to match the levels of performance over the previous two years across a longer run of games this time round.
“We’ve worked hard in training and preparing the players, and we’ve been able to put out a strong side for virtually every fixture this season – unlike in previous campaigns where we’ve often been down to the bare bones for some midweek away trips.
“It’s madness when you complete the double over the runaway champions of the division and then go on to struggle against the teams at the bottom of the table, and it’s especially frustrating as I know we had a squad more than capable of getting promotion.”
Town had spent most of 2015 in the top five, after a patchy start to the season had seen them a little off the early pace – and their eight wins out of nine in the league in January and February seemingly set them up for at least another appearance in the end of year knockout competition.
However a dismal March and April followed, and apart from a successful Easter weekend which included a highly credible victory over champions (by eleven points) Kettering, they only recorded one other victory in eight attempts – including the failure to beat three of the bottom four teams in trips to Daventry, North Greenford and AFC Hayes.
Stringer is uncertain of what the future holds for him at the club. He explained: “If I’m honest I haven’t made my mind up what I want to do with regards to next season.
“I’m certain that we have put this club in a better place than it was when I arrived five years ago, and I do care deeply about whether it is a success or not.
“However, I am disappointed about certain things that I have read on social media over the last week or so, as I have always tried to remain loyal to the club and move things forward wherever possible.
“I am due to sit down with the Chairman over the next week or so, and we will discuss the situation and establish what direction we both want to go from there.”
Stringer’s social media references are thought to refer to the premature departure of striker Richard Gregory ahead of the final game against Royston.
Gregory was unhappy to have been substituted midway through the second half at Daventry the week previously, and the subsequent fall-out left Valley without their New Year signing – who had scored twelve goals in fifteen starts for the club.
# Tuesday’s Central Division play-off semi-finals were both won by the lower finishing sides, with third place Aylesbury FC losing out 2-1 at home to fourth placed Bedworth and fifth place Barton seeing off Royston on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Bedworth now host Barton in the play-off final on their artificial pitch at the Oval on Bank Holiday Monday (4th May).
# Town’s presentation evening will take place in the club’s new hospitality suite at Butlin Road next Friday (8th). Everyone is welcome to attend, and the VS bar will be open from 7pm., with a complimentary light buffet served for those that have not already secured their place for the pre-awards meal. Presentation of the first team and youth team trophies is expected to take place around 9pm.