RUGBY Town face a tough start to their Southern League campaign with a trip to Royston on its opening weekend, when the season kicks off in just over a fortnight.
Games between the two clubs have usually been eventful affairs in the two years since the Hertfordshire club were promoted into the league structure, and the Crows are again likely to be one of Town’s rivals around the top of the table this season.
Valley then face another of the possible promotion contenders when newly relegated Bedford visit Butlin Road three days later, before another home game on Saturday the 16th against Hayes.
Boxing Day sees a home local derby against Bedworth, with Rugby travelling to the bookies’ favourites to win the Central Division – Kettering – on New Year’s Day.
The return home game with Kettering is set for Easter Monday, and then Town round off the season as they are starting it with the reverse fixture against Royston at Butlin Road on April 25th.
Other highlights of the campaign include games against another local rival Daventry on Tuesday, September 9 (home) and April 18th (away) respectively.
The draw for the first round of the Southern League Cup has also been made, with Valley scheduled to make the short trip to Bedworth on October 14th – which will mean a second trip there within two months, with Rugby also due at the Oval on August Bank Holiday Monday for the regulation league game.
RUGBY Town boss Dave Stringer will be hoping for better luck with his next pre-season friendly this weekend against Brackley following the abandonment of the weekend’s Tamworth game ten minutes into the second half.
A torrential storm struck Butlin Road shortly after four o’clock on Saturday, leading to the match referee removing the players from the field for their own safety – initially for a temporary period of ten minutes.
However, with the conditions showing no signs of improvement, the decision was made to call off the game completely – with the Conference North visitors one goal to the good at the time.
The early halt to proceedings meant that Stringer was unable to see potential new signing James Jepson in action, although he did subsequently get a run-out in the practice game on the Butlin Road astroturf against Lutterworth on Tuesday evening.
Jepson featured for Kettering last season, and looked set to switch to Daventry for the new campaign. However, after playing a couple of pre-season games for Valley’s local rivals, it now appears the defensive midfielder has had a change of heart and is seeking pastures new.
The only goal of Saturday’s ultimately aborted affair had come halfway through the first period, when one of Dale Belford’s unnamed triallists guided the ball into the net from close range after a corner from the left.
Ahead of the goal, stand-in Town keeper Phil Smith – borrowed from the Lambs in the absence of Joe Mellings – had been a busy man, denying his normal team-mates on a number of occasions – including a particularly impressive one-handed save to deny Daniel Sleath.
Smith pulled off another excellent stop to a further long range effort from Sleath just after the goal, but Rugby had chances of their own too – with Sam Youngs sending a good shot just wide of the target and Jamie Towers going frustratingly close to an equaliser when he squeezed the ball from a tight angle against the base of the post.
The hosts arguably edged affairs after the restart, and a Seb Lake-Gaskin curling effort was saved well by James Belshaw, before the skies darkened over and the forecasted heavy rain arrived in abundance.
This Saturday’s visitors Brackley had a decent season in the Conference North last time out, recording a seventh place finish, after having just missed out on promotion to the Conference National in 2012/13 in the play-off final.
Valley played well in a 1-0 friendly win over the Saints a year ago though, with a good strike Greg Kaziboni settling the game.
Kaziboni left Rugby to sign for Brackley shortly after the game, but returned to Butlin Road later in the season to make 20 starts for the club. The winger was reported to have rejoined the Northamptonshire club again in the summer.
See Rugby Town’s cut-out-and-keep 2014/15 fixture list on page 39.