Trip to Long Eaton for Valley on Saturday
Rugby Town’s hopes of maintaining their recent MFL momentum were literally dampened when they suffered a second winter Saturday home game postponement of the season at the weekend.
The Butlin Road game against third placed Sporting Khalsa looked all set to go ahead, but then the arrival of a bout of persistent sleet left areas of the pitch too soft under foot – forcing the match officials to call off the fixture an hour before kick-off.
Valley’s previous match had seen the 6-1 drubbing of South Normanton as they extended their fine record of late to just one defeat in nine league outings, and one of the undoubted stars of the show that day was young striker Sam Lockley who recorded a second-half hat-trick after joining proceedings on the restart from the bench.
The 18 year old former Ashlawn School pupil celebrated this success by signing a contract at the club which commits him to Town until the end of the 2018/19 season, and comes only just over a month after he made his Valley debut – again from the bench and again in impressive fashion – by scoring a late winning goal against Boldmere St.Michaels.
Lockley went on to make three starts in the Rugby line-up between his two high impact substitute appearances, and has clearly made a positive impression in his short-time at the club.
Town’s Operations Director Neil Melvin said: “We are delighted that Sam has decided to sign this commitment to us. He has shown already that he has good potential and we look forward to watching him to continue to develop as a footballer here over the next year and a half – and hopefully beyond that too.”
Lockley had had a previous spell at Butlin Road in Valley’s Youth Team, before enrolling on the Strachan Football Foundation programme where he top scored in the Midland Floodlit Youth League for the Rugby Town Juniors side.
He will be joined in the squad by another local prospect Gerard McGahey, after the young midfielder signed registration forms with the club. McGahey is another Strachan-graduate and comes to Butlin Road after a spell with Rugby Borough down in the Leicestershire Senior League.
McGahey’s arrival takes the total of locally produced players in Town’s squad to nine now – including five others who have featured for Town’s youth team over the years in Ashley Bodycote, Sean Castleton, Brad Harris, Harry Holloway and all-time record goalscorer David Kolodynski. The full home-grown tally is made up by Aiden Print and Craig Kelly.
With the majority of the rest of the weekend schedule also called off, Valley remained in seventh place in the MFL Premier Division table. There was some significant action right at the top though, where leaders Coleshill recorded two wins in three days to establish a seven point cushion over their nearest challengers Bromsgrove – who fell to an unexpected defeat at Haughmond last Saturday.
The second of those Coleshill victories came over Rugby’s opponents this weekend Long Eaton, with the Derbyshire club on the end of a Monday evening 7-1 thrashing against the table toppers.
Long Eaton had also suffered a heavy defeat at the weekend in going down 4-1 at Loughborough University, which was also their third consecutive reverse.
Prior to this mini-stumble, the Blues had been in decent enough form though since the arrival of a new management team, which includes ex-Rugby player Willis Francis. Francis started 59 games in two spells for the club between 2005 and 2008.
Two other familiar faces are likely to be evident this Saturday at Grange Park, with Fabian Smith and Josh Thornton both having made the move from Valley to United back in December.
Smith and Thornton had started eight and eleven games respectively in their time at Butlin Road this season, and both have already made positive impacts at their new club – with Smith hitting the target six times in his first four appearances and the versatile Thornton soon handed the captain’s armband there.
The enforced extra week’s break should have given Rugby striker Ruben Wiggins-Thomas further time to recover from his injury niggles, whilst midfielder Ben Ashby is back available again from suspension for the trip to Derbyshire.
# The coach to Long Eaton will leave the clubhouse at 12noon.