RUGBY TOWN: Top two pulling clear

Lewis McBride in Town's win at Chertsey
Lewis McBride in Town's win at Chertsey

In-form Beaconsfield visitors on Saturday

The maximum return from trips to Chertsey and Potters Bar has seen Rugby Town establish a significant points gap between them and third place in the Calor Central Division.

First Valley cruised to a 6-2 Chertsey success, before a solitary penalty ensured a tenth away league win of the campaign at Potters Bar on Monday.

With half of last Saturday’s and then most of the scheduled midweek games postponed, second-placed Town are now twelve clear of Royston, with both Slough and fifth placed Beaconsfield – due at Butlin Road this weekend – two further points adrift.

Rugby manager Dave Stringer reflected on recent performances, including the draw with Kettering the week previously.

He said: “Offensively we were poor against Kettering. Our ball retention was unusually low and we didn’t reach our usual high standards.

“Having said that, we defended fantastically and nearly came away with all three points.

He continued: “We were back in the groove at Chertsey though, and killed things off in the first half. We played some lovely football on a horrendous pitch, though it’s disappointing to then concede a couple of sloppy goals late on.”

“Monday was difficult, as it appeared they just set themselves up to defend. Having not taken our chances in the first half, we then lost our way in the second at times - but fortunately finally got the break we deserved.”

Valley are now just a point behind Dunstable, although they have played once more than the leaders – with most of the chasing pack also having games in hand.

Stringer concluded: “At this stage of the season, I would much rather have points on the board. The teams below will have games against each other to play, plus will also be facing some awkward midweek trips when they finally get the chance to catch-up.”

Stringer described Saturday’s opponents Beaconsfield as “probably the in-form side at the moment”, with the Rams on an eleven match unbeaten run – including last weekend’s home win against Daventry.

Town comfortably won the reverse fixture back in October though, when a 4-1 success at Holloways Park made it three victories over SYCOB in 2013, following on from the ones in the home league game and the play-off semi-final back in March and April respectively.

Recent signing Jamie Towers missed Monday’s success after tweaking a hamstring at Chertsey, and is rated as a doubt for Saturday.

Stringer was more optimistic about Justin Marsden’s chances though, who is progressing well on his return from injury, with Richard Blythe also back available again.

However Sam Belcher has suffered another setback to his knee in training and may now miss the season run-in, with Mitchell Piggon also now out of the equation – having returned to his old club Bedworth.