RUGBY TOWN: Valley short for sixth win attempt

Richard Blythe with an early chance against Leighton
Richard Blythe with an early chance against Leighton

Rugby Town will have to dig deep to maintain their good run of results this weekend, with manager Dave Stringer likely to be missing a number of key players for the visit of Chalfont St.Peter to Butlin Road on Saturday.

Star striker Seb Lake-Gaskin is suspended and midfielder Sam Youngs is definitely unavailable, with Sam Belcher also a doubt due to a hamstring strain.

Ellis Myles ventures forward against Leighton

Ellis Myles ventures forward against Leighton

Belcher missed last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Leighton – in which Youngs grabbed the decisive goal – joining another midfielder Michael Williams on the sidelines.

Lake-Gaskin’s one-match ban for picking up five bookings at least means he will be back for next Tuesday (11th) evening’s home match against Royston, although Youngs will not be back from a trip away in time.

Stringer remained positive though as he looked forward to the Butlin Road double header.

He said: “We have got a decent squad, with players that can come in and do the job. We will be monitoring Sam (Belcher) this week in training and hopefully he will be fit.

“It was another good away win at Leighton. It wasn’t the most eye-catching performance, but I thought we coped well with whatever they threw at us, and did what we had to do to get the three points.”

The form of Saturday’s visitors Chalfont has picked up in recent weeks, after the Buckinghamshire side had made a bad start to the 2012-13 campaign.

The Saints have now lost only twice in the last nine league outings – including three wins in the last four games – and have lifted themselves up into 13th place in table in the process.

Valley did the double over them last season, following up on a 2-1 home victory with a 2-0 away one in April – thanks to two late strikes from the now-injured Williams.

Town’s latest success on the road at Leighton kept them in fifth place in a tight-looking Southern League Central Division top half.

Stringer was happy with how the season was progressing – especially with the run which had seen maximum points from the last five matches.

He continued: “We’re up where we would want to be, and if we can keep playing the way we are capable of and picking up the points, it is not unrealistic that we can be top of this league come the turn of the year.”

Rugby are currently only four points shy of current leaders Burnham in what Stringer considers to be a tougher division than in previous years.

He explained: “I truly believe that it’s a better league this year, with a number of strong sides up there challenging.

“Last time round St.Neots were the stand-out team and they deservedly won the title, but this time there are eight or nine of us with a good chance.”

With twelve goal Lake-Gaskin suspended, Stringer may push Fazel Koriya into a more advanced role on Saturday, although he also has the option of giving a first league start to youth teamer Nik Evangelinos.

A fit-again Belcher would be the obvious replacement for Youngs, although Steve Palmer and Alex Austin – who were both on the bench last weekend – will also be in Stringer’s thoughts.

Next Tuesday’s game sees second placed Royston return to replay the game that was abandoned recently due to floodlight failure.

The Hertfordshire side lost their spot at the summit of the division last weekend after a 3-1 defeat at Slough, which ended a run of seven straight victories for the Crows.

Stringer was impressed by Royston in the aborted fixture a few weeks back, with the visitors leading 1-0 at the time the game was halted.

He said: “Royston were probably the best team we have come up against so far. However I don’t feel we did ourselves justice that day, and we have also learnt something about them from the hour or so we played – so hopefully we will be better prepared this time round.”