NEW Valley boss James Jepson was denied a winning start to his managerial career after hosts Gresley struck twice in the closing minutes to rescue a 2-2 draw at the Moat Ground on the opening day of the Evostik NPL – South Division season.
Town appeared to be coasting to victory thanks to second half strikes from David Kolodynski and Andy Gooding, but two late goals from the hosts levelled things up.
Jepson handed competitive club debuts to eight players in a starting line-up that included just one player – Kolodynski – who featured for them last time round.
It was decent enough start for the new-look visitors though, with Richard Lavery looping a header onto the crossbar after Gooding’s corner had eventually made its way out to him.
Jake Woolley then tested Rob Peet with another that looped up, which the home keeper managed to tip over, before Gooding also struck the woodwork when he curled one against the post after Kolodynski had played him in.
Gresley’s best early opportunity saw Rugby’s Nathan Fox head Tendai Chitiza’s cross just over his own frame, with Chitiza also putting one into the side netting later in the half.
Just ahead of the interval, Peet saved from Kolodynski after he had been set up by Aron Wint – who had replaced the injured Conor Green with less than twenty minutes on the clock.
Valley were soon ahead after the restart though, when Gresley failed to deal with Wint’s initial deflected strike, which allowed Woolley to cut back to Kolodynski to score.
Another deflected effort from Wint fizzed just the wrong side of the upright, and then Peet did well to tip over another chance from the same player.
A double substitution just ahead of the hour gave the hosts increased impetus, and Rugby keeper Ben Heath had to deal with efforts from Lucas Harrison and Pearson Mwanyongo, whilst Courtney Meade blazed a decent chance over.
Having seen both Kolodynski and Jamie Tank just fail to increase the lead after a scramble from a corner, Valley did then double their tally against the run of play when Gooding curled a free-kick home after Sam Belcher had been fouled.
However with a maximum points return seemingly in the bag, Meade gave Gresley a lifeline when he headed in Chitiza’s cross on ninety minutes, and then three minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty when Woolley was adjudged to have fouled Mwanyongo in the box.
Mwanyongo duly picked himself up to send Heath the wrong way from the spot to spoil Town’s opening day.