Stourport Swifts and Coventry Sphix visit this week
Rugby Town face two more MFL Premier Division matches in quick succession in the coming week, when they will be looking for a turnaround in fortunes after two more defeats over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Valley handed first victories of the season to two of the division’s new arrivals, with promoted Haughmond and South Normanton both recording 1-0 successes.
These latest setbacks came a week on from back-to-back 3-2 reverses against Romulus in the FA Cup and Heanor in the MFL, after an initially promising start had seen them beat two sides thought to be in with a shout for promotion from their league this season – Coventry United (albeit in the cup) and Sporting Khalsa.
To further compound this blip in results, Town boss Dave Stringer is also facing a mini injury crisis after keeper Niall Cooper limped out of the Normanton loss on Monday afternoon with a groin strain - which could keep him out for at least a month.
Cooper joins injured defenders Brad Harris, Craig Kelly and Trey Brathwaite on the sidelines, with Cooper’s emergency stand-in and another defender Kyle Rowley also struggling with a strain.
Skipper James Dance was not fit for the Haughmond defeat last Saturday, but returned to Rugby’s threadbare line-up against Athletic, whilst striker Ruben Wiggins-Thomas was among a number of other players unavailable for the trip to Derbyshire.
Wiggins-Thomas is due to return this Saturday when Stourport Swifts are the visitors to Butlin Road, with Rugby then facing another home fixture on Tuesday evening when Coventry Sphinx make the short trip over.
Barwell’s Max Smith-Varnam deputised for Cooper previously when Town’s contracted keeper was missing with a dead leg, and Stringer is investigating the possibility of him filling in again – with Tamworth man Dan Jezeph, who made 13 Valley starts last season another possible replacement.
Saturday’s opponents sit in ninth place in the table after two wins, a draw and two defeats from their opening five outings, and Rugby will play them in a league fixture for the first time since the 2003/04 campaign when the two sides competed in the Southern League Western Division.
Tuesday evening’s visitors have made an even better start to their season, with just one reverse in five – including two wins over the Bank Holiday period against Loughborough University (1-0) and Sporting Bromsgrove (2-0) respectively.
Sphinx’s squad includes a number of players who have featured for Town over recent years – including Aaron Stringfellow, Chris Sterling, Jamie Towers and keeper Scott Dutton.
Town’s latest defeats have seen them slip down to 15th position in the table – level on four points with their two Bank Holiday conquerors.