RUGBY Town’s hopes of winning the UCL Premier Division took a hammer blow at the weekend, after losing out to a last-gasp penalty in a 4-3 defeat to Eynesbury Rovers at Butlin Road on Saturday.
Town threw away a two-goal lead before falling 3-2 behind, and after levelling with less than half an hour to play, an 88th minute penalty from Jordan Jarrold proved a gut-wrenching blow.
It followed on from the disappointment of dropping points in the 1-1 draw at home to Pinchbeck United the previous weekend, but the last two results for Carl Adams’ men are an unexpected dip in form after previously enjoying a six-match winning streak.
Valley now sit 11 points behind leaders Daventry Town, albeit still having a game in hand on the Northamptonshire club, but sit third after Deeping’s win over Wellingborough Whitworth leapfrogged them into second.
It now presents a ‘no more slip-ups’ mentality for Adams’ side going into the final seven games of the season, although it would still require a miraculous decline from the leaders at this stage.
Add in five of the final seven matches being away from Butlin Road, and it presents an even tougher task still.
Saturday’s match looked to be going to plan, with Town establishing a two-goal cushion inside the opening 20 minutes.
But three goals conceded just before half-time was an uncharacteristic breakdown in defence from Rugby, and left them suddenly on the back-foot chasing the game, despite eventually drawing level through Eli Bako on his debut.
Bako, a recent signing from Coventry United, was the only change to Rugby’s side, replacing Dom Perkins in midfield.
Starting brightly with an early chance for Edwin Ahenkorah, who drove a rising effort into the gloves of Jamie Greygoose.
Justin Marsden then sent a low shot glancing past the post, whilst Lewis Rankin’s effort failed to trouble the Eynesbury keeper, but the chances continued to fall for the hosts.
Charlie Evans inadvertently presented an opportunity to open the scoring after crashing a shot against the bar from 20-yards out, which was fired home on the rebound by Simeon Tulloch.
Curtis Hartley went close for the visitors before Rugby made it 2-0.
Loyiso Recci planted a header back across the face of goal from Rankin’s corner, which Evans headed home from close range.
A mistake from goalkeeper Matt Hill presented Eynesbury with a route back into the game, when he failed to deal with a high cross that deceived him, falling to Jordan Brown to finish.
If Danny Draper’s leveller two minutes later was a shock, then the go-ahead goal on the stroke of half-time from Brandon Williams was even more so.
The visitors took heart from their three-goal salvo before half-time, and emerged in the second-half the brighter side, going close through Draper’s drive over the bar.
But a mistake by Greygoose presented the ball to Bako, who duly put the ball away for a debut goal to level the scores.
Rankin had a shot blocked on the line miraculously by Owen Clarke, followed by Dan Summerfield’s wasted chance to re-take the lead.
A free-kick from Rankin had to be tipped wide by the Eynesbury shot stopper, before Liam Francis headed a corner over the bar.
Their efforts would be fruitless, when two minutes from time, Recci was deemed to have pushed Brown in the penalty area, allowing Jarrold to dispatch the spot kick to take all three points.
Rugby head to Sleaford Town in search of a response to their recent disappointments at Butlin Road, and will take confidence from their 4-0 win in the reverse fixture ahead of the trip to Eslaforde Park.
A coach heading to the game will leave outside Rugby School at 11am, and from Butlin Road at 11:15am, travelling supporters are asked to contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366 for more information.