RUGBY TOWN: Looking for first double of season

Sam Warburton in Town's draw with Tividale  PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Sam Warburton in Town's draw with Tividale PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Carlton Town visiting tomorrow

Rugby Town’s in-form playing squad were left kicking their heels for a second weekend within a month, after their NPL South Division fixture at Coalville fell foul of last Friday evening’s downpour.

The Leicestershire club’s Owen Street ground was declared waterlogged even ahead of the further torrential rain that fell on Saturday, leaving Valley boss Dale Belford in typically philosophical mood.

He said: “It’s frustrating not to be able to play when things are going as well as they are at the moment, but we’ve just got to get on with it.

“The extra week off has given the opportunity for a couple of niggles to clear up, so we should go into this Saturday’s game against Carlton with a fully fit squad – and one that is really buzzing at the moment.”

Just four games survived the weekend weather in Rugby’s division – with the midweek schedule also wiped out, but Stocksbridge’s win against Chasetown saw them leapfrog above Town into the top half of the table, relegating Belford’s side down into 12th in the process.

A victory for fifth placed Spalding increased the gap between Valley and the play-off zone to six points, with Belford still refusing to contemplate the possibilities of the top echelons of the table until he considers his team to be mathematically safe from the dreaded drop into step five of the non-league pyramid.

Belford continued: “I am genuinely not looking any further than making sure the original remit of my job here is completed. I don’t want it to be seen as negative, but we took the job on with the clearly defined target to keep us at this level, and I will consider that target achieved when we reach fifty points.”

Town currently have 37 points on the board with sixteen games remaining, and they have two opportunities to add to this tally in the coming week – with the visit of struggling Carlton on Saturday then followed by a scheduled trip to Gresley next Tuesday.

These two upcoming games both give Town the opportunity to record a first double of the season, on the back of their comfortable 3-1 success in Nottingham at the end of September and their first ever win in their new league at home to Gresley the month before.

Town’s manager added: “As ever in this division, we will be expecting two tough matches. When we played at Carlton we were very much still in transition, but we played well that night to earn our first away victory of the campaign.

“Like all teams in this division they looked like they had a couple of decent options up-front then, and we have also done our homework on them recently, so hopefully we know what to expect.”

Belford will have to make at least one change to his starting line-up following the departure of regular left-back Sam Warburton to National League North Nuneaton, although he has moved quickly to bring in his replacement from the same higher level in Hednesford’s Tom James.

Belford praised the contributions of Warburton this season, after the former Northampton Town academy prospect had featured in all but one of the club’s league games to-date: “Sam is a really great kid and I have enjoyed working with him here.

“When I came to the club, he wasn’t playing in his favoured position, but with Craig Kelly getting injured and then deciding to leave, he slotted into his natural spot and really has improved game by game.

“The downside is that it has attracted the attention of Nuneaton, and they have offered him a full-time contract and with it the chance to step up to nearer to where he wants to be – i.e. the Football League.

“I like to think we as a club have helped his development and we wish him well, but it has also given me the opportunity to bring in a quality replacement in Tom.”

27 year old James joins on a loan deal until the end of the season, having also previously been at Leamington, Stratford, Nuneaton, Daventry and Tamworth prior to his spell with the Pitmen. His career also involved a season long stint at Watford – for whom he made one appearance in the first team.

Belford said: “I know Tom well from my time at Tamworth and he should be a cracking acquisition to the squad. He will train with the boys this week and then go straight into the side for Saturday.”

# Tuesday’s trip to Gresley is subject to rearrangement, due to the Derbyshire club’s local FA competition commitments. Visit www.rugbytownfc.com ahead of the game to check whether the league game is still scheduled

# The club coach to Gresley next Tuesday will leave Butlin Road at 5pm. For latest information contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.

# Valley’s away fixtures at Coalville and Lincoln have both now been rearranged for Tuesday 12th and Tuesday 19th April respectively.