RUGBY Town round off theor 2015/16 campaign with a 2-1 defeat at home to play-off Shaw Lane, representing a fourth consecutive reverse for Valley at end of their first ever season in the Northern Premier League structure, reports Jon Venner.
The visitors’ victory at Butlin Road last Saturday proved to be immaterial for them though, with Stafford’s draw at Coalville wrapping up the NPL Division One South title and with it automatic promotion for the longstanding South Division toppers.
Rugby boss Dale Belford made three changes to his final starting line-up at the club, with Chris Tullin and Kevin Thornton returning and his son Courtney also stepped in to replace Sam Andrew between the sticks.
The hosts started brightly enough, with Mitch Piggon and Thornton doing well to carve out an early chance for David Kolodynski after just three minutes, but the striker opted for an adventurous chipped finish, which drifted over the frame.
Shaw Lane keeper Tom Morgan then pulled off a decent stop with his legs to a further Kolodynski effort, before Piggon dragged another opportunity well wide of the target.
The first half an hour of the game continued to belong to the home side, with Luke O’Brien blocking another Kolodynski strike at close quarters and Morgan was again down quickly to deny Town’s leading scorer the opener, after he had done well to twist and turn into the right hand side of the penalty box.
Aquaforce’s confidence had begun to steadily grow though, and the warning signs were there when Gavin Allott really should have scored when he pounced on Matt Curley’s header back to Belford by skipping round the keeper before placing the ball into the side netting.
Despite this miss, the away side were soon ahead when Jonathan Wafula met Matt Thornhill’s corner with his head on 40 minutes.
Rugby’s best chance of the game came just after the restart, when Morgan pulled off an excellent double save from Rob Parker and Kevin Thornton, with Parker then seeing a further follow-up attempt blocked by Gary Stohrer in a now-crowded goalmouth.
Lee Bennett had missed a decent opportunity for the visitors before that, but Allott did add a second just before the hour mark, when he controlled the ball on the run before sliding home past Belford.
James Walshaw also found the side netting for the visitors from a tight angle in a rare goalmouth incident thereafter, although Town sub Jake Healy did manage a late consolation by helping the ball over the line from close range, when he followed up on Piggon’s speculative hook from distance which had bounced back off the woodwork.