Coventry Sphinx visitors in FA Cup
Rugby Town’s attentions turn to the FA Cup this weekend, after a return of just one point from their two games in the Evostik NPL over the past week, writes Jon Venner.
Valley play host to Coventry Sphinx in the competition’s Preliminary Round on Saturday in the first competitive match-up between the two near neighbours for more than 36 years.
Rugby followed up on their goalless home draw with Belper last Saturday with a narrow midweek defeat at Tividale, where the four goals they conceded meant it was now ten in just two league games on the road so far this campaign.
Town boss Gary Mills had added defender Edi Appleton to his squad ahead of the trip to Tividale, and the ex-Hinckley, Hyde, Oadby and Corby man made his debut at the Beeches. The 29- year-old was part of Corby’s Southern League Premier championship winning side last season, but he will miss this Saturday’s game serving a one-match ban for a red card received whilst at most recent club Stamford.
The Valley manager will therefore be sweating on the fitness of two further defenders – Ryan Walker and Mason Rowley – ahead of the cup tie. Walker has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain, whilst Rowley looked to be struggling with an ankle injury towards the end of the Tividale defeat.
Mills is hoping to confirm an agreement from parent club Northampton Town to include loan duo Danny Clifton and Sam Warburton in his squad though.
Sphinx’s line-up is likely to include a number of familiar faces, with Richard Blythe, Lewis McBride, Robbie Banks, Mitchell Piggon and Kyle Bishop all following Craig Herbert to the Coventry club in the summer – following the formalisation of the Rugby legend’s position as assistant-manager there.
Another one-time Rugby player Avun Jephcott is also part of the current Sphinx squad, and they currently sit in ninth place in the Midland Football League Premier Division – having qualified for this stage of the competition with an Extra Preliminary Round victory after a replay against Lye.
The two clubs met six times in the late 1960’s in various league and cup competitions under the club’s Valley Sports identity, with Rugby recording five losses and just one draw from these.
Assuming there is no replay required, Town are then scheduled to return to league action with a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon game at Basford United.
The Nottingham-based club were promoted into the Evostik NPL South Division in the summer, and have kicked off their campaign with two 1-0 victories and two narrow defeats – a return which sees them sit in 11th in the table, six places ahead of Valley. Basford’s current squad includes ex-Town player Fabian Smith, with another Valley legend Chris Freestone also part of their coaching staff.
# Former Rugby manager Jim Watson – who was in charge of the club between 1971 and 1973 – sadly passed away on July 23, aged 78. In addition, Jim played for the old Rugby Town side, before a managerial career that also included spells at Bedworth Town and AP Leamington.
# The club coach to Basford will leave Butlin Road at 11.30am for the 3pm kick-off. For the latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.
# If an FA Cup replay is required, this will take place on Monday 7.45pm at Sphinx Drive instead.