Eighth league away game takes Valley to Sheffield FC
Rugby Town are back on the road again this weekend, in what will be their eighth NPL Division South away game of the season.
Last Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at league leaders Stafford left Valley stuck in 21st place in the table after eleven matches completed, and came at the end of a week that saw their F.A.Cup adventure for the year end after a replay against National League North Brackley.
Rugby boss Dale Belford reflected on the recent period: “It’s certainly been a bit of whirlwind over the last few weeks. It’s been a really hectic schedule playing every weekend and midweek since we took over.
“The players’ effort in this time has been unbelievable and I am immensely proud of the way they acquitted themselves against Brackley in particular. As a group they have given everything, and I think that finally caught up with them in the second half at Stafford where they had nothing left in the tank.”
Belford continued: “Having said that, we have to be realistic and as I have said before the league table doesn’t lie and we are where we are because we haven’t won enough football matches.
“We have seen positive signs though, there is a decent atmosphere in the dressing room and there is a long way to go, so we will be doing all we can to turn things round.”
This Saturday’s opponents Sheffield FC are recognised as the world’s oldest independent football club having been founded in 1857. The club initially played Sheffield rules, a code of its own devising, and these rules influenced those of the England Football Association founded six years later.
The South Yorkshire side have made a good start to the season and are currently third in the division, though still ten points adrift of Town’s conquerors on Saturday.
Belford looked ahead to another testing outing: “It will be another tough game for us this weekend for sure, but that’s pretty much been the case since we arrived.
“We’ve yet to have a home league game, and we’ve been to the runaway leaders and also to Stocksbridge – who were in contention at near the top when we played them.
“I felt we gave a good account of ourselves at Stocksbridge and were desperately unlucky to lose out in the 97th minute, and likewise we more than held our own in the first half last weekend.”
The Stafford defeat saw Town feature a sixth goalkeeper of the season to-date, with Liam Roberts replacing the injured Raaj Gill between the sticks.
Belford moved to secure the Walsall keeper on an initial month loan period after it was confirmed that Gill had suffered a fractured cheekbone in the original cup tie at Brackley.
He explained: “It’s a shame we’ve lost Raaj, as it looked like he was just starting to grow into the role, but the arrival of Liam is a boost and he should strengthen the defensive unit.”
Seb Lake-Gaskin made a second appearance of the campaign from the bench at the weekend, after also featuring at St.James’ Park the week previously.
Belford commented: “Seb is under contract at the club, but there were issues relating to his availability at the start of the season.
“He has told me that he is now available, so we will see how that situation develops. I worked with him a few years back at Tamworth, so I know what he is capable of, and a fit and firing Seb Lake-Gaskin would be a tremendous asset in this division.”
The Town manager finally gets his first home league fixture next Tuesday (27th) when Kidsgrove are the visitors to Butlin Road for a 7.45pm kick-off.
The Staffordshire club currently lie in 15th position, and have won just one game on their league travels so far.
# The club coach to Sheffield will leave Butlin Road at 10.45am. For latest information on this contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.