RUGBY Town boss Gary Moran is hoping the busy Christmas and New Year period gives his side the opportunity to close the gap that has started to develop again at the bottom of Northern Premier League Division One South, writes Jon Venner.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Leek kept basement Valley two points adrift of Loughborough with 20th placed Carlton a further four on from that after the Nottingham club continued their recent fine run with a home win over Chasetown.
Town now face a four-game festive schedule starting with the visit of Lincoln to Butlin Road this weekend, before hosting Bedworth on Boxing Day and then travelling to Stamford and Carlton either side of the turn of the year.
The Leek reverse was Valley’s second on the bounce after successive victories previous to that had appeared to mark a turnaround in fortunes and Moran reviewed this double setback.
“I can’t question the effort and desire shown by the lads in the two defeats.
“On Saturday, we just had a mad few minutes but overall I would argue that we were the better side. The award of their penalty was disappointing as I am still adamant the tackle was made outside of the box.
“We had the chances to get back into the game in the second half though, but we just weren’t clinical enough when they came along.
“The Sheffield loss the week before was another classic case of not managing the game properly. We did ever so well to get back on level terms against what I thought was a very good side but, when perhaps we should have settled for a point, we let them snatch the winner.
“There are still plenty of points to play for, especially over the next couple of weeks, so we need to do our job, play to our potential and get some momentum going again.”
However, Moran confirmed his nominated skipper Joe Halsall has decided to take a break from football for personal reasons, whilst also confirming a couple of new signings this week, with others expected to follow.
He explained: “We’ve got Trey Braithwaite and Warren Brookes joining us on dual deals from Stratford and I hope to add some more new faces soon too.”
The Leek game saw a debut for another new signing Levi Rowley, with the Town manager pleased with the impact the ex-Romulus striker made at Harrison Park.
Moran continued: “I thought Levi very much hit the ground running, which is what we were looking for.
“He is a big, powerful lad and he should be able to hold the ball up for us well, which is something I think we have been lacking.”
Rowley scored the winning goal in the meeting between Rugby and Romulus at Butlin Road last month, having joined the West Midlands club after being released by Walsall in the summer.
Both Scott Hadland (back) and Aiden Print (ankle) are again likely to miss out this weekend through injury, with leading scorer David Kolodynski also continuing to struggle with his hamstring niggle.
Saturday’s opponents Lincoln come into the game on the back of a midweek victory over Chasetown – a result which lifted them up into 13th position in the table.
This latest win extended their unbeaten league stretch to seven matches, as part of a run of just one defeat in 13 outings in all competitions.
The two sides met three times last season, claiming a victory each and a draw. They also met back in September in the reverse fixture in Moran’s first game in charge at the club, with the hosts winning 1-0 thanks to an 84th minute strike.
Of the 11 Town players that started that afternoon at Ashby Avenue, only two – Kolodynski and Moran himself – were part of the starting 11 at Leek.