Rugby Town host Lutterworth in Tuesday's league opener
By Jon Venner
Rugby Town kick-off their fifth consecutive season at level five of the non-league football pyramid when Lutterworth make the short trip across to Butlin Road in the United Counties League Premier Division (South) on Tuesday evening (August 3), writes Jon Venner.
Valley boss Carl Adams will be hoping for an uninterrupted and ultimately celebratory campaign this time round after two Covid-affected terms, with his pre-season preparations ending this Saturday with a final home friendly against Gresley.
Adams’ predecessor Dave Stringer oversaw Rugby’s first year at this lower level in 2017/18 when he guided the club to a distant 6th place in the Midland Football League.
The following season brought a new league in the UCL and a new man at the helm in Adams, and Town tailed off in the closing couple of months of the campaign to finish 3rd in the table behind promoted champions Daventry.
With the potential of two promotion places on offer in 2019/20, Rugby remained in touch of the top throughout and were the division’s form team when the curtain prematurely came down with less than two months to go with Valley sitting in third place on both actual points total and points per game ratio.
2020/21 was an even shorter affair, but Town were again among the frontrunners when the end came, with the FA
ultimately deciding to combine the two curtailed campaigns and elevate just one team (Shepshed) instead on an overall points per game record.
The FA have moved early to avoid any unnecessary confusion if there is any pandemic related disruption this time round and have circulated a detailed contingency planning document explaining how promotion affairs would be handled in various scenarios.
Valley Secretary Doug Wilkins said: “Hopefully it won’t be needed and we will have a trouble-free year, but there are now set procedures in place on how outcomes will be determined.
“The main option is points per game ratios again but also with possibilities for alternate or supplementary competitions and even a play-off mechanism depending on how many games of the normal season have been played.”
The UCL finally released the full season’s fixtures this week, with Rugby set for a busy start with Tuesday’s Lutterworth match marking the first of eleven league games scheduled for the opening two months in addition to Town’s FA Cup and FA Vase commitments.
Doug continued: “The fixture list was delayed because of the number of clubs who either groundshare with other teams or in Coventry United’s case with other sports.
“There’s currently two blank weekends in August and September which are reserved for the next rounds of the two main knock-out competitions, but these could be used for further league games in the event we don’t progress as hoped.”
An additional team - Easington Sports - have been added into Rugby’s division from the line-up announced previously, and it is this Banbury-based outfit that have been allocated to Town’s festive fixture at Butlin Road on Bank Holiday Tuesday 28th December.
Rugby travel to Easington for the season’s penultimate game on Easter Monday, before ending the term with another new awayday at Potton on April 23rd.
Valley completed two further warm-up fixtures over the past week, putting in an encouraging performance in a 2-1 home defeat to higher level Bedworth last Saturday. A second half strike from a Greenbacks’ triallist secured the visitors the victory after Danico Johnson had quickly levelled up Ryan Moore’s opener direct from a corner.
Johnson was back on-target at Butlin Road on Tuesday evening scoring twice in the opening period against FC Stratford to see the hosts coast into the break. A quickfire double after the restart by Ethan Champkins saw the lower level opposition earn a deserved 2-2 draw though.
Rugby Town opening fixtures -
Tuesday 3rd: Lutterworth (H)
Saturday 8th: Boldmere (H) FA Cup
Tuesday 10th: Long Buckby (A)
Saturday 14th: Godmanchester (A)
Tuesday 24th: Oadby (H)
Saturday 28th: Rothwell (H)
Monday 30th: Coventry United (A)
Saturday 4th: Wellingborough (A)
Saturday 11th: Coventry Copsewood (A) FA Vase
Tuesday 14th: Cogenhoe (H)
Saturday 18th: Potton (H)
Tuesday 21st: Leicester Road (A)