RUGBY Town continued their progress in the FA Cup thanks to another tight home victory with skipper Andy Gooding’s successful spot-kick proving enough to see off NPL Premier Division opposition Corby Town, reports Jon Venner.
Having performed a late smash and grab manoeuvre in the previous round against Bromsgrove, this time Rugby’s solitary goal came after just two minutes, with James Jepson’s side then digging deep with a spirited defensive display to hold onto the slender 1-0 lead to put their name in the hat for the second qualifying round.
With Sam Belcher and Gooding back available again after a two match absence, they formed a central midfield partnership for the first time this season, meaning a switch to defence for Richard Lavery while Jepson also recalled Aiden Print to the right-back berth.
It was a perfect start for the hosts, when Jamie Anton’s arm on Darryl Thomas in the box was adjudged to be a foul – giving Gooding the early opportunity to stroke home past Aidan Grant.
From then on the visitors dominated proceedings, but ultimately were unable to capitalise on the string of chances that followed.
Valley keeper Louis Connor was again in inspired form, tipping over recent Rugby man Andre Johnson’s rising effort on 22 minutes, before later denying the same player when quickly off his line just ahead of the interval.
Another of last season’s Butlin Roaders Kurtis Revan also blazed over from a decent position, but aside from a chance late in the first half for David Kolodynski, which Grant was down well to save, the hosts mainly fought a rearguard action.
On numerous occasions the ball had bounced dangerous around the Valley goalmouth, but Corby were just unable to force it home – in no small part due to some excellent defending by the overworked Rugby defence.
In the first half, Lavery had headed one away from his goal-line, before blocking another attempt by Danny Draper – with Brad Gascoigne blazing the rebound over the bar from close range.
After the break the pattern continued, with Johnson soon in on goal again, but Connor was out smartly to push the ball away.
Another couple of penalty box scrambles went unpunished and Callum Ball also put in two off-target strikes for the Steelmen.
Connor then made a great reflex save to deny Gascoigne’s header to Liam Marshall’s corner, and although the in-form keeper spilled a low long ranger by Ball shortly after, he was quickly up to deal to deal with the threat of Johnson for the rebound.
Gascoigne was again the player to suffer as another loose ball in the box was blocked out, and when the visitors finally did get the ball in the net late in the game, Ball’s finish was ruled offside.