RUGBY TOWN: Market Drayton visitors this weekend

Manager Dale Belford
Manager Dale Belford

Back into action after last week’s washout

Having been left kicking their heels after the late postponement of their game at Lincoln United last weekend, Rugby Town will hopefully return to action this Saturday when Market Drayton are the visitors to Butlin Road.

The Lincolnshire club had worked hard to get their Ashby Avenue pitch in a playable condition, but their efforts were thwarted by a downpour of torrential rain meaning Town now have three matches to be rearranged at some point later in the season – with the Lincoln trip joining the one to Shaw Lane Aquaforce and a home fixture against Coalville in the pending pile.

Unlike the Southern League, where the individual club secretaries are directly responsible for rescheduling postponed games, the NPL manage this process centrally themselves, so hopefully the generally mild start to the winter continues and these outstanding games can be fitted in accordingly.

This weekend’s opponents Market Drayton currently sit in the league’s South Division play-off zone in fifth place, although they did lose 1-0 at Spalding in their last NPL outing.

The reverse game between the two teams came back in September in Dale Belford’s second game in charge of the Valley, when two second half strikes by the hosts overturned an early goal from Jake Healy as part of a bright start to the game by Rugby.

The Gingerbread Men’s recent defeat created a five point gap between them and fourth place, and they will be keen to get some more points on the board with Town’s next two opponents Daventry (6th) and Basford (7th) in hot pursuit below them.

Belford is also fully aware of the need to get back on winning ways after their last game saw a late goal condemn them to a home defeat against Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Speaking after the Stocksbridge game, he said: “It’s important that we maintain our momentum. We’ve come a long way since we took over at the club, but a couple of defeats and you can easily be back in a relegation battle.”

Whilst most of last weekend’s league schedule was washed out, 21st placed Loughborough Dynamo did register a rare success by beating fellow strugglers Carlton 3-2 at home, and these two sides are now level on seventeen points – just three shy of the Valley, with Tividale still propping up the table on twelve.

Rugby are scheduled to face both Loughborough and Tividale at Butlin Road in January in what will surely be crucial games to their season’s destiny, with Belford confirming there will be no complacency until his targets are achieved.

He continued: “The effort the players have put in during the three months I have been here is fantastic, but no-one will be relaxing until we are mathematically safe from the drop.

“We know that every game that we face is going to be a tough one, as this is such a tight league. No disrespect to the Southern League (Central Division) that the club played in last time round, but from the games I saw in Rugby’s division then, there were a number of teams that you could pretty much guarantee a victory over.

“The NPL is different and you have to be focused and fight for every single point, whoever you’re up against – top or bottom.”

# Rugby’s festive schedule sees them make the short trip to Daventry on Boxing Day, before hosting Basford two days later at Butlin Road. Town then round off the holiday period with a game at Newcastle Town on January 2nd.

# Two players rumoured to be soon joining up with Belford’s squad are National League North Corby pair Kurtis Revan and Andre Johnson, after the Northamptonshire club confirmed that they had arranged dual registration deals with an un-named club.

Wide-man Revan had previously looked set to start the campaign at Butlin Road under Gary Mills, before the ex-Derby County academy player impressed in a Corby pre-season friendly and Steelmen boss Tommy Wright decided to keep him as part of his first team plans.

Wright has now confirmed that both Revan and striker Johnson – another ex-Derby prospect – will be handed an opportunity to impress at another team for now.

Speaking on the Corby Town website, Wright said: “Kurtis and Andre will be dual registering elsewhere, although we will be keeping a close eye on them both. They are young, exciting players who are full of potential that I see week in, week out in training. They just need a run of games, so this will provide them with that chance.”

# The recently-formed Rugby Town Supporters Club are organising a Christmas food collection for the Hope 4 Rugby shelter in Newbold Road. The charity are requesting tea, coffee, UHT milk and sugar and tins of food, and the supporters can hand over these items at either of the forthcoming home games against Market Drayton (19th December) or Basford (28th). Alternatively you can deliver these anytime to 121 Hillmorton Road over the next couple of weeks. Shelter Manager Carol Malone will be in attendance at the Basford game to receive the collection.

# The club’s annual Christmas raffle will be drawn after the game this Saturday in the VS Bar. Tickets for this will be on sale in the ground on the day.