Gresley at Butlin Road on Saturday, Bedworth United away on Monday
It is looking like Rugby Town’s fight to preserve their NPL South Division status will go all the way down to the wire, after a topsy-turvy few days for them last week.
Having secured a 3-1 win at Northwich, Town extended the gap over their Wednesday evening opponents to six points and the margin over bottom placed Loughborough to seven, only to then see it reduced back down to three and four respectively at the weekend when Valley fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Loughborough, whilst Northwich were returning from Sheffield FC with a victory of their own.
With Town’s two rivals due to meet at Wincham Park in another crucial basement fixture yesterday (Wednesday), a Vics’ victory would push Rugby back into the drop zone ahead of their home game with Gresley on Saturday.
The Gresley fixture marks the first of Town’s three-match run-in, which also sees a trip to Bedworth on Easter Monday afternoon (17th) and a final game of the season at home to Kidsgrove next Saturday (22nd).
After their clash yesterday, Northwich and Loughborough will both have just two games to play, with the Cheshire club facing their landlords (and automatic promotion chasers) Witton on Monday before visiting play-off certainties Spalding next weekend and Dynamo travelling to Gresley on Monday ahead of their campaign finale at home to 16th placed Market Drayton.
Valley’s final three opponents currently sit in 18th, 11th and 10th places respectively, and it is looking likely that Town will need positive outcomes from at least two of these fixtures to avoid marking their Diamond Jubilee year with a hugely disappointing relegation from step four of the non-league pyramid.
In the reverse game between the clubs on the opening day of the 2016/17 term, Rugby surrendered a two goal lead at the Moat Ground in the first match of James Jepson’s brief managerial career - with the hosts striking in the 89th and 92nd minutes to cancel out successful efforts by David Kolodynski and Andy Gooding.
Another Valley capitulation saw local rivals Bedworth secure a 3-3 draw in a FA Trophy tie at the Oval back in October, before the Greenbacks strolled to a replay victory at Butlin Road. However Town gained revenge with a 3-1 home win in the league on Boxing Day thanks to another goal from Kolodynski and a Chris Sterling brace.
Bedworth’s 2-0 home defeat to Belper was their first reverse in seven league games, with their captain (and ex-Valley midfielder) Richard Blythe continuing to guide United to a comfortable mid-table finish following their relegation from the Southern League Premier Division relegation at the end of 2015/16.
There was some good news for Town from the Loughborough loss however, with full-back Trey Brathwaite returning to action as a substitute for the entire second half after having missed three matches through injury, whilst fellow defender Kyle Rowley completed all bar four minutes of the two games against the other two relegation candidates on the back of suffering a series of niggles in previous outings to these.
Midfielder Aaron Moses-Garvey serves the final game of his three match ban on Saturday.