Easter wins lift Valley to fourth place with three to play
Rugby Town’s 2014/15 season’s fate is now back in their own hands again, after they recorded back-to-back wins over the Easter holiday period, writes Jon Venner.
Valley followed up on a 2-1 win over Northwood, with a particularly impressive 3-0 success against Kettering on Monday to return to the play-off zone with just three games to play.
Town travel to bottom club AFC Hayes this Saturday, before visiting another struggling side Daventry a week later, and then round of the main campaign with a home game against fellow play-off chasing Royston on April 25th.
Manager Dave Stringer reflected on the Easter double success: “That was a massive six points for us. It was certainly a make or break period for us, and our performances were excellent.
“I was really, really pleased with the way we acquitted ourselves against Kettering in particular. We set the side out slightly differently from the weekend and it worked well. They had a couple of decent spells at the beginning of both halves, but we coped with these superbly and were clinical when it mattered at the other end.”
Monday’s win lifted Rugby up to fourth in the table – four points adrift of both Aylesbury and Royston above them and a point clear of Barton and Bedworth below them.
Both Barton and Bedworth have to face newly crowned champions Kettering as part of their run-in, and Stringer revealed he had discussed this after the game with Poppies’ joint manager Scott Machin.
Stringer said: “Scott assured me that he is going to make sure their lads are up for their remaining games despite having already sealed the title, and that they will stay fully focused and try and finish on a high.”
After hosting Kettering this Saturday, Barton must also travel to Hanwell – who still have an outside chance of a play-off berth despite a defeat on Monday, whilst Bedworth do have a game in hand on the other teams at the top.
Stringer was adamant he has no preferences as to where his side finish as long as they are part of the play-offs: “It really doesn’t matter to me whether we are 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th, and then who or where we play.
“The important thing is that we finish the job with three more good performances and then we’ll take whatever is set in front of us in the one-off games.”
Saturday’s opponents Hayes have struggled for most of the season, and despite a 4-1 victory over Egham on Monday, they remain at the foot of the table – behind North Greenford on goal difference.
Town have won the last five meetings between the two clubs, following up on last season’s final day 6-0 thrashing at Farm Park with a 1-0 win at Butlin Road earlier this season.
Stringer may have Alex Gudger back in the squad for the weekend trip to Middlesex. Gudger has missed the last six games with an ankle injury, but is now close to a return to fitness.
The Valley boss explained: “Alex will train on Thursday and we will assess the situation after that. We won’t push him unnecessarily though, as Alex Austin has done a tremendous job in his absence.”
Mitchell Piggon is unavailable for the Hayes game due to work commitments, and Lewis McBride is still waiting for the results back on the scan on his knee, but Stringer is hopeful they will be available this week.
# The 1,215 attendance at Butlin Road on Monday was the club’s third biggest ever crowd for a home Southern League fixture, and the largest such one for 21 years. It has only previously been topped by the 1988 game against Aylesbury United which attracted 1,541 supporters and 1,233 turn-out against Rushden & Diamonds in 1994.
# The coach to Hayes will leave the clubhouse at 11.00 a.m. For the latest information, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.