STRIKER David Kolodynski bagged his fourth goal of the season as Rugby recorded their first league victory of the season away at Kidsgrove in the Northern Premier League Southern Division.
Kolodynski’s second half strike proved to be the only difference between the two sides on Saturday after ten man Valley put in a spirited display after the interval.
They did have Louis Connor to thank for their maximum return with the goalkeeper pulling off a string of outstanding stops to deny the home side.
With Sam Belcher, Andy Gooding and Jason Lee all unavailable, manager James Jepson was forced to make three changes from the previous game with new signing Luke Smithson coming in for his debut and there were also starts for Jepson himself and defender Edi Appleton.
An early double chance for Kolodynski came and went as the home keeper Mark Jones saved two well-struck efforts and it was Kidsgrove who had the clear advantage in the first half.
Harry Clayton and Lee Pickerill both slotted chances just wide, before Clayton looked certain to open the scoring with his goalbound volley – but instead it appeared to be inadvertently blocked by his own team mate.
At the other end, Jepson hurried Jones into tipping a free-kick from distance around the post, ahead of the dismissal of Town’s Jake Woolley for a late, high tackle on Dan Skelton.
The first of Connor’s series of impressive saves came just before the half-time whistle, when he denied Valley old-boy Luke Keen with an excellent reaction stop to the striker’s shot on the turn.
Connor was soon back in the game after the restart, getting down sharply to his right to keep out Clayton’s drive, before Marc Grocott curled a twenty five yarder just wide.
However it was the visitors that took the lead just beyond the hour mark, when Nathan Fox curled a delightful low ball in for Kolodynski to apply a neat finish for his fourth goal in four games.
The Valley forward then had a further chance to stun Athletic when he ran onto Jepson’s lofted through ball, but this time he could only lob it wide of the frame.
From then on it was undoubtedly the Connor-show, as the Rugby defence dug in hard in front of him to help protect the slender lead.
Connor again showed quick reactions to push away a deep free-kick from wide by Joe Woolley, and then he denied the same player with a great save at his feet after the ball had broken free in the penalty area.
An equally outstanding save soon followed to Clayton’s powerful strike, before Tom Maddison was the next to be frustrated by Connor, when the keeper was down low to his left to keep out a header.
Connor rounded off a stellar performance late in the game by smothering another on-target Athletic strike – this time from Ant Malbon.