HAVING seen their play-off hopes finally extinguished at Chasetown last weekend, Rugby Town round off their league campaign against Shaw Lane Aquaforce at Butlin Road this Saturday.
The 3-1 loss in the Black Country was followed by an identical score (and scoring pattern) at Lincoln on Tuesday evening, meaning it is now three league defeats on the bounce for Valley – only the second time this season they have suffered this fate.
Soon-to-be departing Town boss Dale Belford will be keen to ensure that his side do not conclude the 2015/16 term with their worst run of it, although they will be up against a side who still have a chance of snatching the Evostik NPL South Division title and with it automatic promotion.
The highest Rugby can finish this time round is eighth, but to do this they must win on Saturday and hope that the current incumbents of that position Leek can do no better than a draw at Spalding.
Whatever the outcomes of the weekend fixtures and wherever Town end in the final listings, Belford will undoubtedly be keen to stress how far his side have come from the potentially relegation threatened position he inherited back in September, despite the disappointing conclusion to the campaign.
On Tuesday evening an under strength Town gave the visitors a first half lead but that was wiped out by three opposition goals – although on this occasion the lead had been overturned ahead of the break.
There were first Valley starts for Josh Willis and Luke Delaney, with David Kolodynski also recalled to the starting line-up in the absences of Chris Tullin, Kurtis Revan and Kevin Thornton.
Kolodynski had an early half chance when he flashed in a powerful shot from the angle which drew a neat save from United keeper Mario Ziccardi at the near post.
The Rugby striker was then presented with an even better opportunity from Rob Parker’s knock-down, but he ballooned this one over the frame from close range, although the hosts also missed a sitter of their own when Matt Cotton somehow missed the target with his diving header from the centre of the goal.
Ziccardi saved from Callum Powell, before Town opened the scoring on 17 minutes when the Lincoln keeper could only parry Kolodynski’s low effort into the path of Piggon – who followed up to finish with ease.
After a concerted spell of pressure, the home side got themselves back on level terms just past the half-hour mark though, when Sam Andrew dropped a ball into the box to allow Jake Gibson to poke home from the resulting goalmouth scramble – with the Rugby players claiming Andrew had been fouled by Lincoln striker Gary King.
United were soon ahead when Matt Curley’s clearance was charged down and King’s subsequent cross from the left was headed in this time by the unmarked Cotton.
Late in the half, Kolodynski pounced on a defensive mix-up but sent his shot on the turn high and wide, but Valley hardly threatened again after the restart in what turned out to be a poor second period overall spectacle.
Lincoln did increase their lead further on 62 minutes when Willis was penalised for a foul on Cotton in the box, to give Danny Brooks to opportunity to lift the spot-kick home.
After this, Gibson and King both sent efforts wide of the target, with Rugby skipper Steve Towers’ powerful free-kick into the Lincoln wall representing a rare moment of danger at the other end ahead of the final whistle.