TOWN manager Carl Adams says the United Counties League Premier Division promotion race is wide open after witnessing his side defeat title favourites Shepshed Dynamo 1-0 last weekend.
James Hancock’s 51st-minute winner at The Dovecote Stadium dealt Dynamo their first home defeat of the season and gave Rugby their 15th win this term, keeping them in second and two points behind leaders Loughborough University.
Three sides currently sit on 48 points, with Quorn and Shepshed – who have played four games fewer – all below Valley on goal difference.
Adams felt his team navigated a difficult pitch and the conditions well to earn themselves a win, and believes Rugby are well in with a shout of going up this season.
“I was really proud of the lads at the weekend,” he said.
“We knew it was going to be a tough ask to get anything out of the game, but we showed real character out there in difficult conditions and I think we fully deserved the win.
“I’m really pleased with the form we have been showing of late, and apart from the second half of the Quorn game recently, I think we’ve been looking really strong.
“It is all to play for now and we’ve given ourselves a real chance, but we know there will be lots of twists and turns over the coming weeks too.”
The hosts almost made a fast start when Matt Melbourne was put through on goal, only to fluff his lines with a weak shot that proved a simple take for Valley’s Matt Hill.
Following that opening, it was Rugby who enjoyed the majority of chances, troubling Shepshed’s goal time and again.
Lee Thomas hit a rising shot that had to be well handled by Dynamo custodian Matt White, while Dylan Parker failed to put away a chance when going clean through on goal.
Ryan Seal’s curling free-kick forced the backpedalling White to tip over the bar, as the opening half ended goalless.
A continuation of attacking momentum eventually bore fruit for the away side though, when Hancocks received possession after a driving run by Johnson, before proceeding to blast the ball hard and low into the bottom corner.
With the hosts unable to recover from the body blow, Valley went close to sealing the season-defining three points late on when the ball fell to Johnson inside the area – but only managing to send the ball into the ‘keeper’s gloves.
This Saturday, Rugby take on local rivals Harborough Town at Butlin Road (3pm) – who currently occupy 12th place – with a victory enough to take Adams’ side top as a result of cup fixtures for the majority of the top six.
Last time out, Rugby were 3-1 victors in November’s clash, thanks to strikes from Jazz Luckie, Charlie Evans and Seal.
Adams is still awaiting an update on the availability of Evans, who is out with an ankle injury, but will be boosted by the return of Omar Recci.