FOOTBALL: VALLEY started the year with three points after an improved second half display led to a relatively comfortable victory at Loughborough University, writes Jon Venner.
Rugby had looked sluggish in the opening period and were outplayed for parts of it by their student hosts, but once Ruben Wiggins-Thomas opened the scoring for Town just after half time it was relatively plain sailing.
Further strikes followed from David Kolodynski and Sam Belcher, before the home side grabbed a 70th minute consolation.
Sam Lockley replaced the suspended Ben Ashby in the only change from Valley’s previous outing, but Rugby keeper Niall Cooper was soon into action to deny Alex Read.
Alex Dinsmore and Cam Gordon also both went close for the students, before Rugby finally came into the game – with Kolodynski firing one over from twenty yards and Stuart Hendrie curling a decent effort off-target too.
Kolodynski then did well to dispossess a Loughborough defender to give himself a free run at goal, but he was subsequently forced wide for his shot – which drew a good save from keeper Jake King.
A Lockley strike was blocked as Town confidence continued to improve, with Jeff Woodward heading straight at King just before the interval.
Valley were soon ahead after the two teams re-emerged, when Belcher played a neat ball into Hendrie – who slipped in Wiggins-Thomas for a composed low finish.
Five minutes later, Rugby extended their advantage when Hendrie found the overlapping Craig Kelly down the left and his excellent low cross was helped home by Kolodynski.
The home side responded well to their double setback though, with James Dance executing a well-timed saving tackle on Dinsmore, whilst Kelly cleared away Gordon’s header from the Town goal-line.
Town were pushing hard for a game settling third themselves though and King’s sprawling save to Wiggins-Thomas’s shot was soon followed by another chance for the striker – which saw him head Kolodynski’s looping cross just over.
Nice interchange play between Wiggins-Thomas and Hendrie did create goal number three however, with Belcher completing the move for his first of the season with a trickling finish.
A subsequent period of pressure from the hosts generated them some reward for their impressive first half display, with substitute Paul Braithwaite slicing one into the roof of the net via the crossbar.
King kept out Hendrie’s strike and Wiggins-Thomas saw his follow-up effort blocked after Valley had counterattacked quickly, whilst Hendrie also lobbed wide after Lockley had played him in.
Further opportunities for Wiggins-Thomas and Hendrie went begging, whilst at the other end Dinsmore also rattled the woodwork in the game’s later stages.