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28th Jun, 2022

FOOTBALL - Rugby Town host league leaders Harborough this weekend

RUGBY TOWN will need to put their FA Vase exit behind them when they entertain new United Counties League Premier Division South leaders Harborough Town at Butlin Road this weekend.

Valley’s FA Vase adventure finally came to an end in Tyneside last weekend as Rugby were beaten 2-0 by competition favourites North Shields.

A goal in each half settled the fifth round tie, with Valley’s supporters left to rue what might have been after around 150 of them made the long trip to the North East to form part of the 1,039 attendance at Ralph Gardner Park.

Town made the worst possible start when they fell behind early on to Chris McDonald’s angled strike and then spurned a golden chance to equalise when Edwin Ahenkorah missed from the penalty spot after David Kolodynski had been fouled in the box.

Danico Johnson had another good opportunity to level matters before half time, but Dan Wilson’s successful spot-kick on 75 minutes after Jamal Clarke was penalised for handball ended the visitors’ hopes of a comeback.

Rugby boss Carl Adams was unable to watch the game from inside the stadium after receiving a two-match ban as punishment for the red card shown to him at Stourport two months previously, and he was understandably disappointed following his side’s exit.

Adams said: “It’s absolutely gutting, as we feel North Shields were there for the taking on Saturday and we have missed out on a massive opportunity.

“Whilst we arguably played the better football on the day, we also had too many players that were weren’t at their best I’m afraid and that’s really frustrating.

“The missed penalty was obviously a big turning point and illustrates how fine the margins can be.

“I would like to thank the many fans that travelled up to cheer us on – they’ve been great throughout the Vase run, and we also wish North Shields all the best in the next round.”

Adams’s assistant Justin Marsden deputised for him on the touchline alongside injured skipper Loyiso Recci, who looks set to miss the remainder of the campaign after it appeared he may require surgery on the foot he damaged in Town’s last league outing against Bugbrooke.

Marsden is back in the dugout this weekend, with Adams looking to lift his squad ahead of the fixture against a side that have only lost once in their 26 league outings this season.

Adams added: “It’s my job to motivate the lads to finish the year with as many points and as high a position in the table as we possibly can.

“I accept it’s going to be difficult to make that top two spot due to the unbelievable records of both Harborough and Hinckley, but all we can do is to try and keep our run in the league going and hope there some surprises elsewhere too.”

Harborough leapfrogged Hinckley to the top of the division with two thumping 7-0 home victories over Biggleswade and Easington respectively as Valley go in search of a 12th win in 13 league matches.

In the lead-up to the North Shields reverse, Town had announced that five of the current squad had committed themselves to the club until the end of next season.

The quintet – keeper Ash Bodycote, defenders Keenah Rosser, Dan Summerfield and Luke English, and striker Ahenkorah – have all signed contracts which will keep them at Butlin Road until May 2023, with the club hoping to add to this initial group over the coming weeks.

Rugby’s clash with Harborough takes place on Saturday, February 19 with kick-off at 3pm at Butlin Road.

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