RUGBY TOWN: Preparations looking good

Seb Lake-Gaskin against Tamworth
Seb Lake-Gaskin against Tamworth

Trip to AFC Rushden & Diamonds tomorrow (Saturday)

Rugby Town’s impressive pre-season form has continued over the past week, with two more victories from their friendly fixture schedule.

Valley eased to a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win over Conference North visitors Brackley at the weekend, and then followed this up with a 3-0 one in a hastily arranged warm-up game at Racing Club Warwick on Tuesday evening.

With a victory at Coventry Sphinx and three more on the Butlin Road astroturf also under their belts, the only slight blemish on Dave Stringer’s side’s preparations has come in the ultimately abandoned home friendly against Tamworth – which was called off with the opposition a goal to the good.

Rugby Town 2

Brackley Town 0

On Saturday, Town had always looked the better side against a transitional Brackley line-up, with the two division gulf between the two sides far from evident.

Justin Marsden had struck a decent effort over the bar from distance, before James Jepson opened the scoring in the final ten minutes of the first half when he was given far too much space on the edge of the box – before firing home a deflected shot past Lee Bedwell in the Saints’ goal.

Jepson signed league forms for the club in the week, and the ex-Kettering, Hucknall and Gresley man can hopefully fill the defensive midfield void that has existed since Sam Belcher’s knee injury towards the end of the 2012/13 season.

An excellent double save from Rugby keeper Joe Mellings and a timely block by Will Grocott did deny John Brown and Greg Pearson an equaliser just ahead of the interval though.

Grocott represented another new face in Valley colours, with the 22 year-old ex-Aston Villa youth player having returned to the country after a spell with K.W.United in Canada. Having started the game for his hometown club at right-back, he then shifted to a more familiar midfield role in the second half.

Rugby went on to be particularly impressive in the game’s second period, with their crisp pass and move football leaving the visitors flummoxed at times.

The game was sealed by Seb Lake-Gaskin, who showed his usual quick feet in a crowded box – before scoring from a tight angle. Brackley’s Tom McGowan lifted a good chance over the target after that, but it was a rare moment of panic for a generally steady Town back-line.

Rugby line-up: Mellings, Grocott, Kelly, Simpson, Gudger, Youngs, Marsden, Jepson, Kolodynski, Lake-Gaskin, Fox. Subs used: Blythe, Austin, Rowley, L.Bishop.

Brackley line-up: Bedwell, Odhiambo, Carruthers, McGowan, Sharpe, Austin, Brown, Ives, Green, Pearson, Diaz. Subs used: MacDonald, Built, Clerima, McKenzie, Samuels.

Racing Club Warwick 0

Rugby Town 3

Town carried on the good work on Tuesday, with another clean sheet and three more goals at Townsend Meadow.

Whilst Warwick will start the 2014/15 season two levels below Rugby, they did put a decent account of themselves in a competitive first half, with Lake-Gaskin’s penalty following a handball in the area separating the two teams at the break.

The hosts tired a little after the restart though, and Town looked a much stronger proposition as a result – with Sam Youngs twice on target.

His first saw him smash home from close range after David Kolodynski had had a header well-saved, and then he rounded off the scoring with a rasping 25 yard strike following a neat interchange with Lewis Bishop.

Another returnee to the country after a spell overseas – full-back Alex Austin – started for Valley, having also featured as a substitute against Brackley, and there was also a first senior appearance from the bench for youngster James Weale.

Weale had a prolific season up-front for the Youth Team in 2013/14, having converted from a goalkeeper, and he made a lively first contribution in a senior shirt – nearly scoring on a couple of occasions.

Rugby line-up: Mellings, Austin, Fox, Simpson, Gudger, Youngs, McBride, Jepson, Kolodynski, Lake-Gaskin, Marsden. Subs used: Grocott, Kelly, L.Bishop, K.Bishop, Weale, Trialist.

Town round off their pre-season schedule with a trip to AFC Rushden & Diamonds this Saturday.

The hosts were formed in 2011 following the demise of the Nene Park club – who spent five years in the Football League structure between 2001 and 2006.

The phoenix club have now reached the UCL Premier Division and currently play their home games at Wellingborough’s Dog and Duck ground.

They are managed by ex-Valley defender Andy Peaks, and include four other ex-Town men in their squad – Matt Gearing, Fazel Koriya, Brad Harris and Jason Turner.

# The club’s Vice Presidents’ section are rolling out a new ‘Goalden Goal’ initiative into the local business community for the forthcoming season.

For a minimal cost of £75 for the season, companies will be enrolled into a scheme that will enable them to take advantage of the club’s annual sponsor day as well as enjoying the benefits of publicity in the club’s website and match programme.

In addition, cash and other prizes will be awarded according to the minute of the first goal scored in each of Rugby’s home games throughout the season – with each member of the scheme given their own number between 1 and 90.

For further details on the Goalden Goal Scheme, contact Tom Crinigan on 07865 094 814.