RUGBY TOWN: Town topple title favourites Shepshed in tight test
Pictures by Martin Pulley
United Counties League - Premier Division
Shepshed Dynamo 0 Rugby Town 1
A second-half goal from James Hancocks saw Town secure an important three points against the division's title favourites at the Dovecote Stadium last Saturday.
Hancocks's 51st-minute strike settled a tense battle and also condemned the hosts to a first home league defeat of the campaign in a match heavily influenced by a strong diagonal gusts.
Valley named an unchanged starting line-up for this top of the table encounter, and Dynamo made a potentially ominous start when they immediately cut through the visitors only to see Matt Melbourne put in a weak shot straight at Matt Hill.
Fortunately that was a rare moment of threat from the home side, with Rugby putting in a solid and determined defensive display for large parts of the game.
With the wind at their back, Town carved out the best chances of the opening period, with Lee Thomas's rising strike taken well by Matt White, and Dylan Parker should have perhaps done better when he broke through the middle of the Shepshed back-line only to fire one at White following good skill from Danico Johnson near the halfway line.
At the other end, the busy Reece Morris sent an effort wide of the post and the same player had a further shot blocked in the box.
However Valley accounted for two further decent opportunities ahead of the break, with first Ryan Seal's swirling free-kick from deep nearly catching out White - forcing him to tip the ball over the bar, and then Johnson blazed wildly wide after he had got in down the left hand channel.
Rugby made a good start to the second half too, with both Johnson and Justin Marsden putting in dangerous crosses.
The decisive moment of the game came after Johnson had run at the Dynamo defence, with the ball coming back to Hancocks who speared a low and late dipping shot past White and into the net.
Town's central back three of Loyiso Recci, Jamal Clarke and Liam Francis were dealing well with the hosts' predominantly aerial bombardment, and Hill was left relatively untested - although Morris did almost lay one on a plate for a team mate with a low cross from the right.
Shepshed's best chance saw Melbourne powerfully head one just over the bar, and as the game entered an inexplicable ten minutes of added-time, Valley almost doubled their tally when Johnson fired one at White, after he and Parker had combined in a swift counter-attack.
Sub Jordan Wilson did put in an on-target header as the hosts threw everything they had at Town ahead the final whistle, but this was comfortably gathered by Hill.