Rugby Town just three wins from Wembley but face long trip north to FA Vase favourites

By Jon Venner

Rugby Town manager Carl Adams at his side's fourth-round FA Vase success over Lakenheath  PICTURE BY MARTIN PULLEY
Rugby Town manager Carl Adams at his side's fourth-round FA Vase success over Lakenheath PICTURE BY MARTIN PULLEY

Rugby Town’s reward for their impressive 5-1 victory over Lakenheath in Saturday’s FA Vase Fourth Round tie is a 400-mile plus round trip to Northern League side North Shields in the last 16 of the competition on February 12.

Valley brushed aside their Eastern Counties League opponents at Butlin Road thanks to a Danico Johnson double and strikes from Justin Marsden, Loyiso Recci and Caine Elliott, leaving manager Carl Adams full of praise for his team.

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Adams said: “It was a great performance on the day. We were very focused and looked composed and in charge from the off.

“We scored some excellent goals too, and all in all it was definitely a good job done.”

Town’s Fifth Round opponents have been widely touted as favourites for the competition though following their penalty shoot-out success at Rugby’s fellow UCL Premier South club Harborough at the weekend , and Adams knows it will be the toughest of tests in three weeks time.

He continued: “It’s definitely not the draw we would have wanted beforehand as it’s such a long way to have to travel, but hopefully we can get a coachload or two of supporters up to Tyneside for the game.

“We will definitely not be fearing them though. We have been on a great run of form over the past few months and after Saturday it’s now 16 wins from the last 18 matches for us.”

Like Valley in 1983, North Shields are also previous winners of the competition - having triumphed at Wembley in 2014, one of nine occasions in the last 13 years that the trophy has made its way to the North East corner of the country.

Adams commented on the apparent strength of northern clubs in the Vase over the years: “There’s no denying they have enjoyed a disproportionate level of success in recent times, but it is also a fact that North Shields are the only club now left in from the Northern League - whereas there were five UCL clubs in Monday’s draw - three of which are from our division.

“Furthermore we’ve already beaten the team that have the best record in the country at our level of the pyramid (Hinckley Leicester Road) in an earlier round, so we know we have the quality and spirit here to make it into the quarter finals.”

Having himself had the opportunity of sampling the Wembley experience in the FA Trophy Final in 2000 whilst a player at Kettering, Adams knows full well the impact that a successful cup run can have on a club.

He said: “The players are all buzzing at the moment and I think the supporters are too. Of course it would be great if we could match the previous exploits of the club in the competition, but in the mean time we just want to keep our decent run in the league going, win as many games as possible and finish as high up the table as we can.”

Town were dominant from the start of Saturday’s Vase win, although it took them until the 30th minute to take the lead over Lakenheath when Johnson guided the ball home after he had exchanged passes in the box with David Kolodynski.

Kolodynski also had a major part in Rugby’s second just before the interval, when keeper Charlie Beckwith could only parry his shot into the path of Marsden to score from close range.

Johnson made it three with a neatly curled strike into the bottom corner on 64 minutes, with Recci then firing home the goal of the game from fully twenty yards, before Elliott cleverly flicked in sub Max Johnson’s cross to complete Town’s tally.

Shaun Avis grabbed a late consolation from the penalty spot for the visitors, who played the final 25 minutes a man light after their skipper Sam Hawley received two sin-bin yellow cards for dissent - with Lakenheath apparently deprived the opportunity to replace him after he had sat out his second ten minute punishment after an error by the match officials.

Next up for Valley is a trip across the county border into Northamptonshire for a league fixture against Cogenhoe this Saturday.

Cup-tied trio Alex Lock, Adam Shaw and Madundo Semahimbo will all be available for selection again after they were forced to miss the Lakenheath success, although Town are likely to be without Dylan Parker - who suffered knee and ankle injuries at the weekend in his brief appearance as a substitute.