FOOTBALL: RUGBY Town put in an inspired performance at a chilly Butlin Road to see off high-flying Newcastle Town 2-0 and claim only their second win of the season in the Evostik NPL – South Division, reports Jon Venner.
A goal in each half from Joe Halsall and Charlie Faulkner meant Town registered their first home league win of the season – their first in the NPL since the end of August, all against opponents that went into the game in first place in the South Division listings.
It was far from a top versus bottom affair, with the visitors rarely troubling debuting keeper Dan Jezeph throughout, whilst Rugby’s high pressing game and neat interchange play were a welcome revelation.
Jezeph’s hands were warmed on a couple of occasions early on though when he comfortably gathered strikes from Kyle Blake and Kyle Diskin, before Halsall gave the hosts the lead on 24 minutes when he ultimately helped home a long throw from Mason Rowley which had been turned towards goal by David Kolodynski.
With their confidence boosted by the goal, Aiden Print had a shot blocked and Kolodynski flashed a the ball across the face, with Print putting in a further on-target effort which was parried away by Aaron Dillon.
However Richard Smith did blaze a decent chance over the bar for Newcastle ahead of a niggly, scrappy end to the first half, sparked by an incident which saw Aaron Moses-Garvey booked.
The ill feeling carried over into the second half, with the visitors clearly becoming more and more frustrated by their inability to break down a steadfast Valley defence expertly marshalled by Mason Rowley.
It was left to the division’s basement side to create the game’s better opportunities at the other end, with Print again testing Dillon from distance and Moses-Garvey ending a surging run forward with a shot that just fizzed wide.
Moses-Garvey sent another just high of the frame and Blaize Punter’s on-target strike was deflected off for a corner, with Rowley heading the subsequent corner over the bar.
However a spell of Newcastle pressure did follow, although without generating a single shot to trouble Jezeph, before Rugby wrapped up the game with a minute of normal time remaining when Faulkner ran onto Chris Sterling’s defence splitting through ball to round Dillon and slide the ball into an empty net.
Lee Cropper’s attempted overhead hook was blocked in a late glimmer of hope for the generally sorry Staffordshire outfit, as was substitute Joseph Thomas’ strike – this time superbly by Rowley.