RUGBY TOWN: Valley pull off deeply deserved turnaround to go top of table
PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
United Counties League - Premier Division
Rugby Town 4 Deeping Rangers 3
Town twice came from behind to complete a sensational late comeback against their promotion rivals at Butlin Road last Saturday.
Deeping sub Luke Hunnings' stoppage-time own goal settled a pulsating encounter to give Valley a deserved win, after Liam Francis, Ryan Seal and Dylan Parker had earlier found the net for the hosts.
The two teams traded early chances, with Rangers' Cameron Johnson missing the target after rounding keeper Matt Hill and then Hill's opposite number Lewis Elsom denying Lee Thomas with his legs.
However the visitors took the lead from the penalty spot, when Johnson stroked home after Jamal Clarke was adjudged to have impeded him in the area.
Town responded well to this setback though, and were straight on the front foot in the search of an equaliser.
A looping header from Francis was deflected onto the top of the net, but he was soon levelling things up when he rammed the ball in from close range after Clarke's initial header to a Seal corner had come back off the crossbar.
Thomas had another shot saved by Elsom, and Clarke almost converted Seal's free-kick to the back-post, as the home side pushed for a second.
The busy Elsom then pulled off a fine stop to keep out a hooked effort from Francis, before he produced an even better one to deny Clarke at point blank range.
Deeping rallied a little ahead of the interval, with Tom Garrick's powerfully struck shot taken by Hill at the second attempt, before the same player gave the visitors a half-time lead when he rose highest to head home Jack Gurney's corner.
Rugby twice went close in the opening stages of the new period, with Dan Flack heading Parker's clever chip off the line and Lee Thomas flashing a ball across the face of the goal.
It was therefore against the run of play that Rangers further extended their advantage, when Scott Mooney expertly looped the ball beyond Hill's reach.
Valley pulled one back within a few minutes, when Seal's low strike to Parker's lay-back found the net - with Parker and then Seal almost adding another in the subsequent attacking plays.
Rangers continued to create opportunities of their own too, as their generally direct tactics threatened to pay dividends, with David Burton-Jones blazing over from a decent position.
Sub Caine Elliott struck the post and then Parker found the crossbar with the rebound, as it appeared not to be Valley's day. However with five minutes of normal time remaining, Parker did hit the target after Deeping were unable to clear a Seal free-kick into the box to make it three apiece.
Parker and Elliott saw their shots blocked as the end of the game approached, but there was still time for that 95th minute twist when the previously adept Elsom somehow completely misjudged James Hancocks' swerving ball into the box with Hunnings applying the final touch before the ball crossed the line.
Rugby line-up: Hill, Evans (Revan), L.Thomas, Francis, Recci, Clarke, Seal, C.Thomas (Elliott), Parker, Johnson, Hancocks. Subs not used: Marsden, Padmore, Rosser
Rugby Star Man: James Hancocks