Victory over Gresley at Butlin Road
Town bounced back immediately from their weekend disappointment at Loughborough, with a hard-fought for victory over last season’s divisional play-off semi-finalists at Butlin Road on Tuesday evening.
Sam Warburton’s 38th-minute spectacular strike ultimately settled proceedings, but Gary Mills’ side showed some real character after Gresley’s Jordan Bell had halved Town’s two goal lead midway through the second half.
Mills made one change from the heavy defeat at Loughborough, dropping himself to the bench and giving a first start to Warburton on the left hand side of midfield.
The game started slowly, with neither side creating a chance of note until Valley took the lead on eighteen minutes when Tom Liversedge got the slightest of touches to Tom Ryan’s head back towards goal from a Steve Towers’ corner.
Rob Parker’s speculative lob nearly caught out Gresley keeper Liam Roberts and David Kolodynski also put one effort wide of the target, before the visitors nearly levelled things up when Alex Steadman headed a Richard Bailey centre onto the crossbar.
The move of the game ended with that critical second Rugby goal, when the hosts broke quickly and in numbers.
The on-loan Danny Clifton picked out his Cobblers team-mate with a superb cross-field pass, which Warburton met first-time with an equally impressive strike which flew into the roof of the net via Roberts’ hand and the bar.
Clifton and Warburton combined well again before the break, but this time Roberts was equal to the latter’s low effort.
Inevitably Gresley pushed their hosts back a little in the second half, and Steadman missed another great chance when he failed to make a telling contact to sub Ryan King’s cross with the goal gaping in front of him.
Aside from Parker’s teasing cross which was caught well by Roberts with Warburton poised to pounce, Town lacked any real threat in their attacking play and they then had to endure a nervy last 20 minutes or so when Bell’s cleanly struck shot gave Gresley a potential lifeline.
Fortunately the Valley back-line held firm for the remainder of the game, and at the other end Rugby began to look dangerous once more on the counter with Clifton putting one just wide of the target and Warburton also dragging an effort the wrong side of the upright before the referee’s whistle confirmed a first NPL win for Town.