Trips to Chasetown and Lincoln this week
Rugby Town’s chances of a place in the end of season play-offs were left hanging by a thread after the eventful midweek defeat at Coalville.
The result saw Valley slip a place in the NPL South Division table to 8th and they are now seven points shy of the play-off zone with just three games of the regular campaign remaining.
Lincoln United – Town’s opponents next Tuesday evening – still occupy the final (5th) spot in that zone, with Rugby’s destination club this Saturday Chasetown in 6th. Stocksbridge pushed Town down a spot on goal difference after their midweek win at Spalding.
Therefore Valley must look to beat their two big rivals over the coming week, as well their final game against title challengers Shaw Lane (on April 23) and hope the teams currently above them drop further points before the season is through.
Town boss Dale Belford was remaining positive despite the Coalville set-back, which saw his side just miss out in a nine-goal affair.
He said: “All the time the play-offs are mathematically possible, we will keep striving to achieve this.
“Massive credit to the players against Coalville though, as they gave me everything against a team that have been challenging at the top all season and have a great record at home.”
Rugby were beaten 5-4 at Owen Street in a real topsy-turvy affair, on the back of an 11th Butlin Road league victory last Saturday against Sheffield FC.
Belford continued: “We’ve not necessarily been at our most convincing in the two previous home games against Daventry and Sheffield, but each time we’ve done the job in pressured situations, and we’ve then had a right go on Tuesday – before just coming up short.
“As I’ve said before, to be where we are at this stage of the season after where we were after ten or so games in is incredible, and I am massively proud of my players for the effort, desire and ability they have shown.
“I accept that it is a real outside chance now, but we need to focus on winning our games and hope there is an unlikely series of results elsewhere.”
Valley will face ex-boss Dave Stringer’s Chasetown at the weekend, looking to avenge the 3-2 defeat at Butlin Road in November, where another one-time Town man Michael Williams opened the scoring in a game settled by a Sam Warburton own goal.
The Scholars have lost just once in their last 11 league matches, although their 1-1 draw last Saturday at Spalding did allow Lincoln to increase the gap between them to three points.
Lincoln are also on a decent run of form, with only two losses in 12 outings, and Tuesday’s visit by Belford’s men will be the third game between the two sides this season, after the two previous ones at Butlin Road ended 1-1 and 3-2 to Town in the league and FA Cup respectively.
Belford is hoping for good news on the player injury front ahead of the weekend, with Kevin Thornton (thigh) and keeper Sam Andrew (hamstring) both possible returnees after missing the last two matches.
Jonathon Thorpe may also be back available, with Sean Wilkins another player fit for selection for the squad again.
# The club coach to Chasetown will leave Butlin Road at 11.30am and the Lincoln one at 4.30pm. For latest information contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.