CHARLIE Evans was Rugby Town’s hero at Sleaford Town in the final match before the indefinite suspension of the United Counties League.
The midfielder’s 70th-minute winner shaded the 2-1 scoreline in favour of the visitors to move Rugby up to third in the Premier Division – keeping the race for the title and promotion wide open.
Valley had to do it the hard way though after going a goal down to Liam Tunstall’s fourth-minute opener, before Ryan Seal promptly levelled from the spot to restore parity in the 11th minute on what was a windy encounter at Eslaforde Park.
The current standings make positive reading for Rugby, considering they sit three points behind second-placed Shepshed Dynamo, albeit having played two games more, and with three games in hand on leaders Quorn – who are seven points in front.
Just the one change was made by manager Carl Adams for the trip to Lincolnshire, as Kurtis Revan came in for Justin Marsden to partner Danico Johnson up front.
Revan’s strike partner almost broke the deadlock with the first chance that came his way, getting plenty of power on the shot but firing the effort against a defender from a tight angle.
Rugby were stunned when the hosts raced down the other end and took the lead through Tunstall’s composed finish.
But the rapid response by Seal, who stroked home from 12 yards after Revan had been felled inside the box, meant Rugby were back on level terms.
Their attempts to do so were often unsuccessful for the rest of the half though, with the only clear chance being Seal’s first-time shot that was acrobatically tipped over by Sleaford’s Garry Doran.
The second half offered more promise by the way of opportunities, with Johnson gifted the first of these following Doran’s poor clearance – only for his attempt to be kept out.
Evans went closer still with a strike that clattered against the foot of the post from long range, before Jamal Clarke should have done better when well-placed to meet Seal’s corner.
Thankfully for Adams and Co, the decider did arrive 20 minutes from time and in fine fashion too.
After spotting Lee Thomas’ whipped cross making its way to the back post, Evans made a well-timed run to stretch and slide the ball home to give Rugby a crucial late advantage.
Further chances followed, although Town were unable to make their second half superiority count after Revan and Evans both squandered chances.
The missed opportunities would not matter however, as Rugby claimed their 18th victory this term.
As far as the rest of the month is concerned, a home fixture with Loughborough University and away trips to Oadby Town, Northampton ON Chenecks and Peterborough Northern Star have been postponed in line with the current league suspension until Saturday, April 4.
Should the non-League programme resume as planned, Valley would next be in action at home to Pinchbeck United on that date.