Newcastle on Saturday and Northwich season-defining game on Wednesday
Rugby Town start their six game run-in with a trip to Newcastle Town this weekend, before a potentially season-defining game at their fellow drop zone contenders Northwich on Wednesday (April 5).
Valley were just unable to follow-up on their unexpected victory at Witton the previous weekend when the two sides met again at Butlin Road last Saturday, although they did give a decent account of themselves in the 2-1 defeat against the automatic promotion challengers.
Town head coach Martin Sockett had promised in the build-up to the game that the team would “give it a real go” and he was true to his word, as Rugby pushed hard for a third successive victory – especially in the game’s opening exchanges.
However the enormity of their task against a side that had lost only three times in the league prior to Town’s 4-3 success at Wincham Park was intensified by the second half sending-off of substitute Aaron Moses-Garvey, and the visitors’ pressure finally paid off when they scored the winner with just three minutes of normal time remaining.
Moses-Garvey is available for selection this weekend, but will then be banned for the Northwich game – as well as another subsequent ‘six-pointer’ at home to Loughborough on April 8 and a further Butlin Road fixture against Gresley the following Saturday.
Northwich cut the gap between them and Town to four points with a 1-0 home victory over Carlton on Saturday, and the Cheshire club were due to face 18th placed Gresley yesterday (Wednesday) in the game in hand they had over Valley.
However Loughborough slipped into bottom spot in the table after a home reverse to Stocksbridge, with Rugby therefore continuing to enjoy a four-point advantage over Dynamo – as well as a much healthier goal difference and a game in hand too.
Northwich face a trip to 6th placed Rushden on Saturday, while Town warm up for the crucial clash on Wednesday by facing up to another side chasing a place in the play-offs.
Despite their 2-1 defeat at Lincoln last weekend, Newcastle are still in fourth place in the listings, and the Staffordshire club will be looking for revenge after Gary Moran’s side outplayed them in a 2-0 Butlin Road win back in November.
Newcastle had gone into the game top of the division, but goals from Joe Halsall and Charlie Faulkner earned Valley a deserved first victory in 13 league outings.
Of the Rugby team that started the game that day, only three – Aiden Print, Mason Rowley and David Kolodynski – lined up at kick-off against Witton on Saturday, which exemplifies the ever-changing make-up of Town’s playing personnel this season.
Fortunately over recent weeks, Valley have had a more settled look to them, although the recurring injury problems of defender Kyle Rowley will be providing headaches for the management team ahead of the final stretch of the campaign.
For the second game running, Rowley was forced to leave the field early on Saturday – pressing cousin Levi to move back into a fill-in role at the centre of the back-four.
Full-back Trey Brathwaite also missed out with a muscle injury at the weekend, so Moran will be hoping for a return to fitness from the Stratford dual registered man at Newcastle.
Other defensive options for him include another shared Stratford man Guy Clark (assuming he is not required by his parent club), Blaize Punter and Callum Burgess – who has been missing for the past couple of months through illness.
# The club coach to Newcastle leaves Butlin Road on Saturday at 11.15am and Wednesday’s Northwich one at 4pm. For latest information on these, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.