RUGBY Town continued their upward momentum in the Evostik NPL South Division by extending their longstanding unbeaten away run after their trips to Spalding and Gresley over the last week.
Valley’s four point haul from the Spalding 1-1 draw and a 3-1 success at Gresley lifted them up into eighth spot – their highest standing of the season so far, and it is now five months since they tasted defeat in a league game away from Butlin Road.
A fifth away win of the campaign came in Derbyshire on Tuesday where Dale Belford’s side eased into a three-goal lead withing 65 minutes.
Valley opened the scoring as early as the seventh minute when a lovely exchange in the penalty area between Mitchell Piggon and Kevin Thornton was rounded off by Thornton calmly rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
Thornton scored his second of the match from the spot after Gresley defender Jake Carlisle was harshly adjudged to have brought down the former Sky Blues player in the box.
Town’s third came courtesy of Gresley’s Matt Roome, when the defender’s head connected with Thornton’s teasing cross and the ball flew past the helpless Cottrell.
A mistake by Valley goalkeeper Sam Andrew allowed Albert Lansdowne to pull a goal back for Gresley but it proved to be little more than a consolation.
This weekend Valley’s impressive record will be further tested with a trip to third-placed Shaw Lane Aquaforce, where they will face a team clearly enjoying their first season at this level of football.
The Barnsley-based club have arguably the most realistic chance – albeit an outside one – of catching the division’s current leaders Stafford, although their midweek draw at Sheffield means there is now a 15 point differential for them to make up and Shaw Lane now only have four games in hand over Rangers.
Town are still six points shy of the play-off zone with Chasetown (sixth) and Leek (seventh) both two points ahead of Valley between that.
Rugby travel to all three clubs though in April, so there is still much to play for as Belford seeks to complete what would be a remarkable turnaround from the situation he inherited back in September.
Valley have lost just once in 14 league outings now but likewise this Saturday’s opponents are in good form themselves, with the Sheffield draw extending their unbeaten run to 11 matches.
Belford recalled his leading scorer Kolodynski to the starting line-up for the midweek win at Gresley, after having benched the striker for the three consecutive games following the Stafford loss.
Speaking on the decision last week Belford explained: “I have always said that no one player is bigger than the team and nobody is undroppable.
“Kolo has done well over recent months and scored plenty of goals, but he also needs to buy into what we are building here in terms of a team ethos.
“We thought long and hard about the decision to change the line-up, but we felt that the physical presence of Mitchell Piggon was needed. Having said that, I am sure that Kolo still has a massive part to play for us in the remainder of the campaign.”