RUGBY TOWN: Looking to push on from seventh spot in the league

Niall Cooper saves in Saturday's win at Loughborough   PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Niall Cooper saves in Saturday's win at Loughborough PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
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South Normanton Athletic are Saturday’s visitors to Butlin Road

Rugby Town’s 3-1 weekend victory at Loughborough University has lifted them back up into seventh place in the MFL Premier Division, as they prepare to host South Normanton Athletic this Saturday at Butlin Road.

A shot from Sam Lockley in last week's 3-1 victory

A shot from Sam Lockley in last week's 3-1 victory

Their tenth league success of the campaign was achieved with midfielder Sam Belcher in the side, after the midfielder’s sending-off the previous week against Highgate was successfully appealed against – sparing him a three-match ban for the alleged violent conduct.

Belcher went on to play a full part in the Loughborough win, scoring Valley’s third goal as well as helping to create their first for Ruben Wiggins-Thomas – with David Kolodynski also on-target for Town to maintain his one goal lead over Wiggins-Thomas at the top of the scoring charts.

This weekend’s visitors The Shiners have struggled in their first season at this level following their promotion from the East Midlands Counties League at the end of 2016/17, and currently sit in 19th position in the table.

They have only recorded four MFL wins to-date, but one of these did come in the reverse fixture between the two sides back on August Bank Holiday Monday, when Normanton sub Kevin Hemagou’s 77th minute winner ended a threadbare Rugby’s brave resistance on the day.

Town had travelled to Derbyshire with a matchday squad of just 12 players – including an only half-fit Kyle Rowley on the bench.

However with keeper Niall Cooper picking up a groin injury early in the game, Rowley had to take his place between the sticks for the second half and it was a back-to-the-walls affair for Valley from there on.

Rugby will again be without Ben Ashby this Saturday as he completes his two-match ban for totting up ten yellow cards for the season, with fellow midfielder Josh Ruff now one booking away from the same total and punishment after he again had his name taken at Loughborough.

It has been confirmed that wide men Chadd Birch and Tevin Shakespeare have both left the club after failing to hold down a regular place in the side.

Birch started just four games with 11 further appearances from the bench after signing in the summer, whilst ex-Walsall FC youngster Tevin Shakespeare returned to Butlin Road for the new campaign after featuring towards the end of last season and scored four goals in cup competitions as part of a record of seven starts and ten substitute appearances.

Town boss Dave Stringer is hoping to add a midfielder to his squad ahead of the weekend fixture, as he looks to close the gap on the MFL Premier leading pack – currently headed by Coleshill and Bromsgrove.

Rugby face another home match a week Saturday (20th January), when third placed Sporting Khalsa are the visitors, before they round off the month at Long Eaton on the 27th.