Last game in charge for manager Dale Belford
PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Having seen their play-off hopes finally extinguished at Chasetown last weekend, Rugby Town round off their league campaign against Shaw Lane Aquaforce at Butlin Road this Saturday.
The 3-1 loss in the Black Country was followed by an identical score (and scoring pattern) at Lincoln on Tuesday evening, meaning it is now three league defeats on the bounce for Valley – only the second time this season they have suffered this fate.
Soon-to-be departing Town boss Dale Belford will be keen to ensure that his side do not conclude the 2015/16 term with their worst run of it, although they will be up against a side who still have a chance of snatching the Evostik NPL South Division title and with it automatic promotion.
An injury time goal earnt Shaw Lane victory from their midweek encounter against struggling Tividale, and the Barnsley-based club go into the final set of fixtures just three points shy of Stafford but with a superior goal difference to them.
The long-time leaders Rangers face a tricky trip to third place Coalville, whilst Shaw Lane look to complete the double over Valley – after another stoppage time winner saw them send Rugby back down the M1 empty-handed.
Elsewhere in the division, Lincoln’s victory over Town secured them the final play-off spot, meaning ex-Valley and current Chasetown boss Dave Stringer just misses out again for the second year running – on the back of leading his old club to 6th place last season in the Southern League Central Division.
The highest Rugby can finish this time round is 8th, but to do this they must win on Saturday and hope that the current incumbents of that position Leek can do no better than a draw at Spalding.
Below them – if defeated at Butlin Road on Saturday - Valley could be caught by Romulus, but only if the West Midlands club win at Basford and there is a five goal difference turn-around from the two games.
Whatever the outcomes of the weekend fixtures and wherever Town end in the final listings, Belford will undoubtedly be keen to stress how far his side have come from the potentially relegation threatened position he inherited back in September, despite the disappointing conclusion to the campaign.