Fourth-place Valley take on Barton Rovers in sixth, kick-off 3pm
Rugby Town manager Dave Stringer has described the upcoming home game with Barton Rovers as “massive”, after watching his side slip up last Saturday at Godalming.
That defeat means it is even tighter in and around the Southern League Central Division play-off zone, with the two clubs immediately below Valley – Royston and Barton – both winning their matches at the weekend.
Fortunately Rovers failed to take maximum advantage after only drawing midweek at home to Marlow, but this Saturday’s visitors to Butlin Road are now only three points behind Town with a game in hand – with 5th placed Royston sandwiched between the two, level on points with Stringer’s side.
The Valley boss said: “It’s a big, big game for us on Saturday. It’s not quite season defining yet, but the pressure is certainly on us after last weekend’s results.
“Individual mistakes have done for us again at Godalming. I thought we played reasonably well overall and had lots of possession, and for that reason it really wasn’t a game that we should have lost.”
The 2-1 defeat came after Rugby fought their way back into the game through an 83rd minute Justin Marsden equaliser, only to see the hosts strike back straight away to win the game from the penalty spot.
Stringer had no qualms about the award of the spot-kick though, as he confirmed: “Mason (Rowley) pulled their man back in the box. I would have wanted that to be given to us, if it was the other way round.”
Town’s record against this weekend’s opponents has been good over recent years, with just one defeat in the nine games between the two clubs – although that did come in the reverse fixture earlier this season in Bedfordshire.
Rovers have coped well with the loss of their leading scorer Keshi Anderson at the end of January, when the hot prospect joined Premier League Crystal Palace on deadline day of the transfer window.
They have lost just once in their eight league outings since Anderson’s departure, and have recently signed the division’s leading scorer Lewis Putnam from Aylesbury United to fill the void.
Alex Gudger’s ankle injury means that he remains side-lined for the weekend, although Stringer is hopeful that his captain may make a return to the line-up in the near future, although he confirmed that Lewis McBride is likely to miss the remainder of the season.
He explained: “Lewis has a scan booked on his knee, and it is looking increasingly likely it is a ligament tear – in which case he could be out for eight to nine months at least.
“It’s hard to put a timescale on Alex’s injury, but he responded well to treatment at training this week and if all things go well, he could even be back in consideration for next Saturday.”
# The two teams immediately above Town in the table, 2nd and 3rd placed Bedworth and Aylesbury also play each other this Saturday. Local rivals the Greenbacks are four points ahead of Rugby, whilst Saturday’s hosts Aylesbury currently enjoy a two point advantage.