HAVING kicked off their season with a decidedly mixed bag, Rugby Town face two more Southern League Central Division fixtures over the coming week writes Jon Venner.
Valley deservedly returned from Royston last Saturday empty-handed after a 2-1 defeat, before making amends with a more assured performance and a victory at home to Bedford on Tuesday evening.
Nathan Fox, Seb Lake-Gaskin and David Kolodynski were all on-target in the midweek 3-2 success, with Fox – being employed in a more advanced role than last season – also on the scoresheet in Hertfordshire at the weekend.
The Bedford win means Valley sit in joint 10th place in the early divisional table, with the pre-season bookies’ favourites Kettering topping it after two straight wins – a feat only matched by Town’s local rivals Bedworth.
Next-up for Dave Stringer’s men is the visit of AFC Hayes to Butlin Road this Saturday, with a trip to Northwood to follow next Tuesday (19th).
Both upcoming Middlesex opponents have opened up their campaigns with a solitary draw from their two games, with Northwood on the end of a 5-0 thrashing at early leaders Kettering on Tuesday.
Rugby have a good record in their games against Hayes, with six victories and a draw from the eight matches between the two sides – including the 6-0 win in the final game of the regulation 2013/14 season.
However, Town’s trip to Northwood a month previous to that was less rewarding, after a 2-1 defeat ultimately applied a huge dent to their title aspirations.
Stringer will be without the services of holidaying defender Marcel Simpson for the next fortnight, although with Mason Rowley named on the bench against Bedford now seemingly back in the picture, he has a ready-made replacement.
Rowley made 60 league starts for Town after signing in September 2012, before leaving for Stratford halfway through last season after losing his place in the starting eleven to Nathan Haines.
He returned to the club for pre-season though, but with Stringer looking to favour captain Alex Gudger and Simpson in the centre of his defence, he then signed for NPL side Rainworth Miners Welfare.
Stringer will also be hoping to have Alex Austin, Sam Youngs and Jamie Towers back at his disposal for the weekend.
Austin is still awaiting international clearance following his year in Australia, Youngs missed the Bedford win through illness, and Towers did not feature in the end of the pre-season schedule or the opening two league games due to his honeymoon and then work commitments.