RUGBY TOWN: What a difference a week makes!

Two league wins for massive turnaround in fortunes

Friday, 25th November 2016, 5:15 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:40 am
Chris Sterling against Leek Town on Tuesday evening PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Rugby Town’s fortunes appear to have taken a massive turnaround over the past week with back-to-back victories against two of the better placed sides in the Evo-Stik NPL South Division.

Having turned the form book on its head by comfortably dispatching league leaders at the time Newcastle 2-0 last Saturday, Valley then proved it was no flash in the plan in midweek by edging out Leek by a single goal in another Butlin Road match.

Town do remain bottom of the table though, but the six point haul leaves them separated from 21st placed Carlton only on goal difference – with two others (Loughborough and Stamford) two points ahead of them and a further three teams another two points on from that.

Mason Rowley led the defence against top-of-the-table Newcastle

Valley boss Gary Moran had called on his side to improve their ‘game management’ ahead of the latest home double header, having watched them throw away leads in their two previous NPL matches against Rushden and Romulus.

Those two fixtures saw Rugby end up with a 1-1 draw and 2-1 defeat respectively, but there were no such problems in their latest outings as strikes from Joe Halsall and Charlie Faulkner against Newcastle and then a long awaited return to the scoresheet for David Kolodynski on Tuesday evening both went unanswered by the opposition – meaning Moran’s men now have earned three clean sheets in the row.

The last two of these were achieved with a new man between the sticks for Town in Dan Jezeph, after previous incumbent Louis Connor decided to make the switch to Corby last week.

Connor had been Rugby’s stand-out player of the season so far, but his debut for his new club was not a happy one, as it was reported he was at fault for two of the goals conceded in a 3-3 draw for the NPL Premier Division bottom team, which leaves one-time Town manager Gary Mills still looking for a first victory after six games in the hot seat at Steel Park.

Mason Rowley led the defence against top-of-the-table Newcastle

Connor’s replacement Jezeph has signed on dual registration forms from Tamworth having been released from Walsall in the summer, and he marked his arrival at Butlin Road with a couple of assured performances, despite not turning nineteen years old until next month.

Moran has also brought in attacking midfielder Mitchell Thomson from Nuneaton Griff, and the ex-Coventry Sphinx man was an unused substitute on Tuesday evening.

He also hopes to add a full-back to his squad this week, as he looks to fill the gap caused by the retirement of Craig Kelly due to a knee injury and the departure of Aaron Stringfellow – who is off travelling for a period.

With another experienced attack-minded player also lined up to be joining ahead of Valley’s next outing at home to Sheffield on December 3rd, things seem to be looking up for the new man at the helm – who had to wait until his twelfth league game in charge for a victory last weekend.

Ex-Stratford defenders Emmitt Delfouneso and Anthony Charles both sat out the two successes due to illness and injury respectively, with Aiden Print also an absentee from the Leek win after he picked up a knock to his ankle in the Newcastle game, but with an 11-day gap between fixtures now, hopefully all three will be back in contention when Rugby return to action.

The extended break is due to the postponement of this Saturday’s scheduled fixture against Witton, who are still engaged in the FA Trophy, and means it will now be a straight run of seven games at Butlin Road – with a Wolverhampton Wanderers side due to visit a week Tuesday (December 7th) in the Birmingham Senior Cup.

# Valley centre-half Blaize Punter’s Caribbean Cup debut appearance for Antigua and Barbuda last month meant the rare - if not unique – feat of there being two full internationals in a Valley starting line-up, with Aaron Moses-Garvey another to have been capped by his father’s native country (St Kitts and Nevis) in the past.