Rugby Town’s disappointing start to their UCL Premier campaign continued at Harborough on Tuesday evening with a 2-0 defeat against the division’s current leaders, writes Jon Venner.
For the second midweek running, despite acquitting themselves well enough on the night, Valley came up just short against a team that appear to be one of the frontrunners for promotion.
As in the 3-1 loss to Hinckley seven days earlier, Town fell behind early on in drenched conditions on the hosts’ 4G surface when Paul Malone’s excellent header to Josh Walsh’s free-kick beat Ash Bodycote.
Rugby’s best chance of the first half saw Edwin Ahenkorah stab the ball just wide, with new signing Alex Lock doing likewise in the second, as the visitors tried their hardest to get back on level terms.
However despite enjoying some encouraging passages of play, Town lacked the killer touch in the final third and they failed to test home keeper Elliott Taylor at all, before Walsh curled another free-kick around the defensive wall and past Bodycote with seven minutes remaining.
This latest reverse represented a fourth successive away UCL defeat for Carl Adams’s men and leaves them with a mini-mountain to climb if their own promotion ambitions are to materialise this season with just over a quarter of the campaign completed.
Lock arrives at the club having impressed Adams in Rugby’s 8-2 win at Coventry Copsewood in the first stage of the FA Vase just over a fortnight previously, and Valley’s good run in that competition continued when they navigated their way into the First Round Proper with a 1-0 home success over AFC Wulfrunians at the weekend.
In hugely contrasting weather conditions to Tuesday’s soggy outing, Ahenkorah’s 51st minute penalty settled the tie against MFL Premier opposition to earn Town a trip to Belper United on Sunday, October 24.
On the whole though, it was relatively uninspiring fayre at a sunny Butlin Road on Saturday, although Rugby did miss out on a number of good opportunities to put the game out of reach of their Wolverhampton-based visitors after a slightly improved second half performance.
Stuttering Town now face a blank weekend in the league, before playing host to Coventry Sphinx on Tuesday (5th).
There is now a 13-point gap between table toppers Harborough and ninth placed Rugby - with both teams having completed 11 fixtures to-date. All seven teams between them have played fewer, with last Tuesday’s conquerors of Town - Hinckley LR - continuing their 100% record so far with a win at fellow challengers Lutterworth on Tuesday.