AFC Hayes and Royston this week
Despite their chronic injury problems, Rugby Town continue to keep the pressure on at the top of the Calor League Central Division.
Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Aylesbury saw Valley go level on points with current leaders Dunstable, and boss Dave Stringer reflected on another gutsy performance from his threadbare squad.
He said: “I’ve never known an injury crisis like this in all my time in football, but we keep picking up the points we need.
“It’s not always been pretty over the past few weeks and Tuesday was another example of us digging deep to get the job done.”
The win was Town’s twelfth in fourteen league outings, and as well as now only trailing Dunstable on goal difference, Valley also enjoy an eleven point gap between them and the play-off chasing pack – led by sixth place Kettering.
However Stringer concedes that his side have yet to reach the heights of last season in terms of performances.
He explained: “Even before the injuries hit, it’s true to say that we haven’t been as dominant or fluent this season. But we do have a number of players hopefully due back soon, and – if anything – we are better placed now than we were last time round.”
Next up for Rugby is the visit of mid-table AFC Hayes on Saturday, closely followed by next Tuesday evening’s trip to seventh placed Royston.
Stringer is hopeful that one of the recent absentees Craig Kelly will be back in contention this weekend, with two others Andrew Spencer and Greg Kaziboni available within two weeks.
Of the others currently missing, Justin Marsden’s dislocated shoulder could rule him out for up to six weeks, and both Sam Belcher and Robbie Banks are awaiting diagnoses on their long-term injuries.
Belcher made a brief comeback a fortnight ago, but soon broke down with another problem to his knee, and Banks has been out of action since his broken leg at the corresponding game at Royston last season.
Stringer continued: “We’re not sure whether Sam’s issue is the same as before or a new one, and Robbie’s been suffering some discomfort with his bolts and has a consultation before Christmas to assess what the situation is.”
Richard Blythe will re-join the squad for the weekend fixture against a Hayes side that have shown their best form on the road so far this season – with six of their eight wins coming away from home.
Stringer will also have the services of Richard Wesley to call upon, after the local player re-joined for a third spell at Butlin Road.
27 year old Wesley has featured 78 times for the club, last leaving in January 2012 to sign for Bedworth, before moving onto Stamford in the summer.
Next Tuesday sees a first return to Garden Walk since the ill-tempered clash there in February, when the game was abandoned after Royston refused to continue following Banks’s cruel injury – with Valley one-nil to the good at the time.
The points were subsequently awarded to Rugby, with the Crows ultimately finishing the campaign in seventh – two points off the play-off places.
The Hertfordshire occupy the same position this time round, and have continued to suffer discipline issues too – finishing an FATrophy tie with just eight men earlier in the season.
However last season’s manager Paul Attfield – who took responsibility for the abandonment - has since resigned his post due to ill health.
# The coach to Royston on Tuesday will leave Butlin Road at 5.00 p.m. prompt. For latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.
# Town’s Birmingham Senior Cup 2nd Round home tie with Tamworth has been arranged for Tuesday 7th January.