RUGBY TOWN: Sixth time lucky at Communications Park?

Sam Warburton in the win over Market Drayton  PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Sam Warburton in the win over Market Drayton PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Bid to break Daventry jinx on Boxing Day

Rugby Town will be finally looking to break its Daventry hoodoo this weekend, when they make the short journey down the A45 for the Boxing Day derby game.

Kevin Thornton scored the third goal on Saturday

Kevin Thornton scored the third goal on Saturday

Five seasons have now elapsed since the two local rivals re-engaged with each other following a 47-year gap in fixtures, and each time Valley have visited the Northamptonshire club they have returned empty-handed – usually on the back of a poor performance.

Club Director Neil Melvin is hoping this time will be different and Dale Belford’s men can provide the travelling supporters with some festive cheer.

He said: “We just haven’t turned up in the last five games there, so hopefully we can finally do ourselves justice on Saturday.

“In the past we seem to have struggled to cope with Daventry’s particularly direct style of football and also not adapted well to the surface or the slope of the pitch. We’ve generally faced them in hard, dry and bobbly conditions, so perhaps the heavier ground might improve things, although it’s true that tactically we’ve also been naïve in previous encounters there.”

Having lost 4-2 in their first away game in the Southern League in April 2011, Rugby then went on to record a 1-0 defeat the following season, before three particularly inept displays saw them suffer three more reverses by 4-1, 5-0 and 2-0 margins respectively.

That final defeat all but derailed Valley’s play-off hopes last year, and came despite the fact that Daventry had struggled near the bottom of the division for a large part of the campaign.

Melvin continued: “Fortunately we’ve pretty much got a brand new side and fresh management team in situ now, so there shouldn’t be any mental scars with regards to the previous experiences. I think of the current squad only Mason Rowley has featured for us there, so hopefully Dale and Steve (Farmer) can get the lads up for it and we can finally banish the demons of Communications Park.”

Rowley is unlikely to start on Boxing Day, after he was dropped for the impressive 3-1 victory over Market Drayton last weekend, when a David Kolodynski double and a Kevin Thornton strike made a mockery of the fourteen place gap between the two sides going into the game.

Against Drayton, Belford rejigged his defence by moving Chris Tullin into a central position and playing Matt Curley at full-back, and it is unlikely that he will make any changes to the side at Daventry.

The Boxing Day hosts have made a good start to their first season in the Evostik NPL, having joined Valley in being moved into the league’s South Division for the 2015/16 campaign.

Last Saturday’s 2-1 success at bottom side Tividale lifted them up into the play-off zone in 5th spot, with one of their goals coming from ex-Valley man Mitchell Piggon – who has now had two spells at Butlin Road.

Rugby go into the festive schedule with just two defeats in their last nine league outings though, and last Saturday’s victory lifted them over Gresley and Goole in the table to 17th – with two further clubs (Belper and Newcastle) just a point above that.

Town visit Newcastle the following Saturday (2nd January), with a home match against Basford scheduled in between these two away fixtures on Bank Holiday Monday 28th December.

The Nottingham-based club visit Butlin Road for the first time, and will be looking to complete the double over Valley, after they comfortably won the reverse game 3-0 at the end of August.

Next Monday’s Rugby-Basford encounter will kick-off at 3pm.

# Having completed the dual-registration of Kurtis Revan from Corby ahead of last weekend’s fixture, Belford also added Jetmir Esso to his squad.

21 year old Esso has previously played in the Slovakian League for Slavos Trebisov and has impressed Belford in training over the past few weeks. His signing was finally completed after the club received international clearance for the Kosovan-born attacker.

Winger Revan made his Rugby debut as a second half substitute on Saturday.