Hednesford visit Butlin Road for second qualifying round
Rugby Town will be looking to repeat their giantkilling heroics from a fortnight ago when they welcome Hednesford to Butlin Road in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Valley pulled off an unlikely 4-2 triumph at Southern League Premier Redditch in the previous round, recovering from a 2-1 deficit with ten men to dump a side two levels above them in the non-league pyramid out of the competition.
This weekend’s opponents play in Redditch’s NPL equivalent division and they are long-standing foes for Rugby - with the two clubs having met 37 times previously, including 16 games in Southern League competitions between 1985 and 2010.
Having battled their way through a tricky FA Vase tie against Ingles at the weekend, Town were then disappointing in defeat in the league at Oadby on Tuesday evening.
And boss Carl Adams will be demanding a massive improvement from his side on Saturday if they are to bank a further £9,000 to add to the more than £11,000 of FA Cup prize fund they have already accumulated from their victories over Coventry United, Evesham and Redditch in previous rounds.
Last weekend’s Vase win has earnt Rugby a First Round Proper fixture at MFL Premier Boldmere St Michaels - with the game scheduled for Saturday, October 13 on the 3G surface at the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground.
The 2-1 midweek defeat at Oadby saw Town slip down a further place to 6th in the UCL Premier table, and once more they struggled to penetrate the opposing defence in the absence of in-form striker Danico Johnson, who will also miss Saturday’s big cup game as he completes his three match ban for his sending-off at Redditch.
One potential stand-in Romario Martin notched his second goal in two starts at Ingles, although Adams may choose to pair up Charlie Evans - a hat-trick hero in the previous round - with Simeon Tulloch, who returned to the Valley squad at Oadby having missed the Vase success.
Experienced midfielder Richard Bunting missed both of the games over the previous week with a groin injury, so Adams will be hoping for a return to fitness for the ex-Rushden skipper ahead of the Hednesford clash - as Town participate in this stage of the competition for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
On two of the four previous occasions they have managed to progress one round further, and if they are to do so again they will need to see off a team that have to-date won four and lost four of their eight NPL Premier games to sit 9th in the table.
The two sides have met previously in the competition back in 2004, when a Robbie Beard double earnt Rugby a 2-2 draw in the First Qualifying Round at Butlin Road - with the Staffordshire club just edging out Valley in the subsequent replay at Keys Park.
Current Town player/assistant manager Justin Marsden featured in both of those games fourteen years ago, and the 34 year old was in fine form at Ingles setting up Martin for his opener, before Daniel Kavanagh sealed the win late on with Rugby’s second.
Valley face further cup action next Tuesday, when Leicester Nirvana visit Butlin Road in the First Round of the UCL League Cup.
Rugby’s 4-1 victory in the Preliminary stage at Harborough recently set this tie up against a side that Town also put in a below-par Tuesday evening display earlier in the league campaign - going down 2-0 at Nirvana’s Hamilton Park ground.
However that success represents the Leicester club’s only league win of the season so far, and they are currently in 15th spot in the table.
# Should Saturday’s FA Cup tie end all-square, a replay at Keys Park would replace the scheduled game against Nirvana.