WORDS BY JON VENNER - PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
FA Vase - Second Round Proper
Rugby Town 1 Hinckley LR 0
Town battled to a narrow win over the in-form leaders of their division at Butlin Road last Saturday to enter the Third Round of the Vase for the first time in 37 years.
Valley have been drawn away to Stourport Swifts of the Midland Football League Premier Division in the next round.
The hosts had put in a particularly encouraging first half display and, as part of that, James Hancocks's successful free-kick proved to be the difference between the two sides in the end.
Hinckley did step up a gear or two as the second half progressed, but they came up against a resolute Valley defence against which there was ultimately no way through.
Ashley Bodycote was recalled to the starting line-up between the sticks in place of Matty White, with Caine Elliott and Danico Johnson also back in from the off.
Rugby made a bright and positive start, with Luke English blocked out early on after the ball had fallen to him from a corner and Max Johnson also shooting one way over the bar.
Loyiso Recci's header to an English long throw lacked power, but did nearly sneak past Will Highland in the visitors' goal, although Valley were then nearly architects of their own downfall at the other end when they somehow allowed Liam Read a shot from a tight angle which Bodycote did well to keep out with his foot.
The Town keeper also competently punched away the resulting corner which was dangerously whipped into his goalmouth, but generally the home side were in the ascendance and showing a level of intensity and purpose sometimes lacking in previous matches.
Their reward came just ahead of the half hour mark, when Highland could only get a hand to Hancocks's powerfully struck free-kick after Elliott had been clipped when running at the London Road defence.
Town looked to further capitalise on their dominance, and English's cross from a dangerous position on the right was cut-out by Highland, with the same player then dragging one wide from distance following a strong upfield surge from the full-back.
Hinckley's best chance of the half came shortly before the interval though, when Bodycote got his angles spot on to deny Dom Brennan after he had pounced on Keenah Rosser's short back-pass.
The UCL Premier South one hundred percenters came out in more determined fashion after the restart though, without really threatening the Rugby back-line in the opening exchanges.
The first opportunity of the new period actually fell to Town, with Edwin Ahenkorah drawing a comfortable save from Highland to his low effort.
Elliott then stormed down the right hand side, only to see his attempted pull-back to David Kolodynski just cut-out by a Hinckley boot.
However Substitute Jordan Burrows was soon spooning one over the bar for the visitors after Matt Langham had played him in, as the pressure gradually increased on the hosts.
Max Johnson then did well to block Danny Jenno's low free-kick - with the ball fortunately deflecting away for a corner, which Rugby managed to clear away after a goalmouth scramble.
Town were still creating the occasional chance of their own though, with Danico Johnson's speculative strike from distance missing the target and Ahenkorah twice almost forcing the ball home at close quarters.
Rugby consistently put their bodies on the line to keep Hinckley at bay, with Omar Recci and English executing the most notable blocks to strikes from Brennan and Read respectively.
The home side also dealt capably with the inevitable late aerial bombardment to secure their place in the draw for the next round.
Rugby line-up: Bodycote, English, Hancocks, Rosser, L.Recci, O.Recci (Bennett), Ahenkorah, Elliott (Parker), Kolodynski, D.Johnson, M.Johnson. Sub not used: Marsden, Fitzharris, White
Hinckley line-up: Highland, Acton, Earls, Humphreys, Jenno, Astill, Jones, Allcott, Langham, Brennan, Read. Subs: Beasley, Burrows, Munton, Harrison
Rugby Star Man: David Kolodynski