RUGBY TOWN host Lakenheath in the fourth round of the FA Vase this weekend in one of the club’s biggest games in recent years.
Valley famously lifted the Vase at Wembley back in 1983 and a dramatic penalty shootout win against Stourport Swifts in the previous round kept their dream alive.
However, Rugby come into the clash off the back of a 3-0 home defeat to league leaders Hinckley LRFC, a result which ended Valley’s impressive eight-game winning run.
Goals from Callum Earls, Matt Langham and Danny Jenno condemned Rugby to defeat although Town Director Neil Melvin remains excited for Saturday’s clash.
Melvin said: “We’ve had a few significant encounters at the club since the turn of the century in the FA Cup qualifying phase and the FA Trophy and also in end of season play-off fixtures.
“The opportunity to reach the last 16 of a national competition must be up there with – or arguably beyond – them.”
Rugby have already won five matches in the Vase this season and face another tough test against Eastern Counties League Premier side Lakenheath.
The Suffolk club currently sit in 11th spot in their division with seven wins, seven draws and eight defeats to their name.
Manager Carl Adams added: “It’s great that we have got a home draw and we have to try and make that advantage count, but there are no easy games at this stage of the competition.”
Town will need to bounce back from a disappointing performance at home to Hinckley in the United Counties League Premier league at Butlin Road.
The defeat means Valley slip to fourth place in the table as they struggled to lay a glove on the division’s runaway side who are now six points clear at the top.
Boss Adams is sweating on the fitness of a number of key players ahead of Saturday’s clash with both Jamal Clarke and James Hancocks joining Luke English on the sidelines for the Hinckley game.
English’s fractured foot is likely to rule him out for a couple of weeks and Rugby will also be without the cup-tied trio of Adam Shaw, Alex Lock and Madundo Semahimbo.
The Valley family lost another one of its treasured members recently, with the passing of Ron Sheppard on December 29 last year.
Coventry-born, Ron moved to Rugby in 1962 and he played more than 150 games for the club in the 1970’s – in addition to prior spells at both the original Rugby Town club and Coventry City.
He was also involved in the local cricketing scene, and was an integral part of the group that developed the club’s Butlin Road ground as a committee member and groundsman, before then becoming a Valley Director for a number of years from 1983.
There was a minute’s applause for Ron ahead of Town’s fixture against Hinckley last Saturday, with a funeral service at All Saints’ Church, Yelvertoft on Thursday, January 13 at 10am.
Rugby’s clash with Lakenheath takes place on Saturday, January 15 with kick-off at 3pm at Butlin Road.