Town take on league leaders and Kolo
Rugby Town boss Dave Stringer will have to patch up his injury-hit squad and send them into battle once more at Kettering on New Year’s Day, after his side pulled together to see off high flying Bedworth at Butlin Road on Boxing Day.
Midfielder Robbie Burns’ third goal in six Valley starts settled the local derby in Town’s favour to keep them in sixth place in the Southern League Central Division, but it will be a big ask of Stringer’s squad to replicate that success at Latimer Park on Thursday – with the Northamptonshire club stretching their lead at the top of the table to seven points following their weekend success at beleaguered Daventry.
Town beat the Greenbacks without injured defensive mainstay Alex Gudger, whose recurring ankle injury saw him sit out alongside longer term absentees Lewis Rankin (hamstring) and Alex Austin (wrist) – with strikers Mitchell Piggon and Seb Lake-Gaskin not risked from the start either and a number of other Valley’s starting line-up short of full fitness.
Keeper Neil Collett became the fifth to don the Rugby number one jersey this season already, when he stepped in to cover for the absence of regular stopper Richard Morris, and the ex-Coventry City, Nuneaton and Leamington man performed commendably behind a makeshift defence to record a clean sheet.
The New Year’s Day fixture will of course see Town come face-to-face with ex-striker and club record scorer David Kolodynski for the first time since he departed for the Poppies in October.
Since that move, Kolodynski has featured in seven games for his new team – managing to find the net in just one of those, albeit a second half hat-trick at home to Royston.
Without their star striker (and despite their ongoing injury woes) Rugby’s form has been reasonably good of late though, with Friday’s victory meaning it is just two defeats in the last 12 league outings.
Kettering have established their healthy lead at the summit this time round on the back of a storming second half of last season, when they ultimately missed out on promotion in the play-off final against Slough.
Their record at home in the league shows ten wins and a single defeat this season, and it is difficult to see them missing out on automatic promotion back to the Premier Division come the end of this campaign.
Once the Kettering test is out of the way, Stringer will be looking for his side to kick on and return to the play-off berth that they have previously occupied this season with a run of fixtures against teams currently below them in table in January and February.
These start with the visit of ninth placed Egham on Saturday (January 3), followed by another home game the following weekend when Uxbridge are at Butlin Road – with a trip to Premier Division side Biggleswade in the third round of the League Cup next Tuesday (6th) sandwiched in between those two matches.
Town were successful in the reverse game between this Saturday’s visitors, recording a comfortable 4-1 success over the Sarnies in October.
# The club coach to Kettering will leave Butlin Road at 12.30pm and next Tuesday’s one to Biggleswade will depart at 5pm. For the latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.