Third place finish is now in Rugby Town's hands
Rugby Town made it four wins on the spin with a 2-0 victory at Rothwell Corinthians, whilst at the same time any remote hopes they had of ending up in the promotion mix were finally being ruled out mathematically.
WORDS: JON VENNER
PICTURES: MARTIN PULLEY
A top two UCL Premier South finish is beyond Town after Hinckley LR joined Harborough there, although Valley are now in the driving seat for third place with just four games remaining.
Fifth placed Newport Pagnell's midweek defeat at Hinckley means the upcoming FA Vase finalists are now seven points shy of Town's total with two games in hand, with Coventry Sphinx in between, four points behind Rugby.
Saturday's Rothwell success came courtesy of a header in each half from Jamal Clarke and David Kolodynski, with precision deliveries from Justin Marsden and Madundo Semahimbo respectively providing the crucial assists.
Town keeper Ash Bodycote recorded a third successive sheet, with the relegation threatened hosts rarely troubling the Valley defence.
Next up for Rugby is the visit of Wellingborough to Butlin Road this Saturday, a week ahead of their final home fixture against another struggling side Northampton Chenecks. Town then end the season at Easington on Easter Monday and at Potton on April 23.
Newport's success over Hamworthy on penalties in their Vase semi-final last Saturday means they will play at Wembley in May. Loughborough were beaten by Littlehampton - who had also seen off Rugby's conquerors North Shields.
Saturday's visitors Wellingborough will be hoping for better fortune than in their two 2019 fixtures at Butlin Road, when Rugby saw off the Doughboys 7-1 and 6-1.
The Northamptonshire club are in seventh spot, having also won the reverse fixture, when Town put in a below-par performance in a 1-0 defeat.
Another popular figure from the club's history has recently died, with the sad news of the passing of ex-Valley man Andy Geddes after a long battle against cancer aged 62.
Wide-man Geddes started 174 games for Rugby between 1987 and 1991, having previously had a particularly successful spell at Scottish club Dundee.
Andy's passing comes a year on from that of his brother Paul at the age of 59. Paul featured for the Butlin Road club in more than 100 games between 1985 and 1987 in a central defensive role.
United Counties League - Premier Division South
Rothwell Corinthians 0 Rugby Town 2
Town made it four wins on the spin with a goal in each half at struggling Rothwell last Saturday.
Headers from Jamal Clarke and David Kolodynski respectively eased the visitors to victory, whilst Rugby also recorded a third successive clean sheet in maintaining their third place berth in the league table.
Alex Lock in for the ill Edwin Ahenkorah represented the only change to Valley's starting eleven from the previous weekend's home success over Biggleswade, with James Hancocks returning to the squad on the bench after a seven week absence through injury.
The opening half of an hour of the game was decidedly uneventful, although Kolodynski did have one header to a Caine Elliott cross blocked away - with Justin Marsden's shot from the rebound then deflected away for a corner.
Luca Miller fired one way over for the hosts in a rare moment of threat to the Rugby defence, before Town nearly opened the scoring after Kolodynski's hassling had forced Jude O'Connor into dropping the ball near the edge of his area, but Barry Fitzharris was just unable to lift it over the head of the now stranded keeper.
Clarke did break the deadlock on 35 minutes though, when he timed his run perfectly to meet a neatly flighted corner from Marsden to head home from a few yards out.
Valley pushed on for a second goal before the break, with Lock's shot which was parried away by O'Connor representing the closest they came to it.
The new half started quietly also, with the only moment of danger in the Corinthians box coming when a Luke English long throw was missed by everyone and ultimately had to be beaten away by O'Connor.
However the home side's increasingly direct tactics were starting to bear some fruit at the other end, and Miller flashed one across the face of Ash Bodycote's goal after he found some space down the left hand channel.
The two sides then traded decent chances, with Fitzharris volleying Clarke's headed knock-down over the target and then Bodycote pulling off a decent save to push over Zac Allen's angled strike.
Town sub Adam Shaw almost set-up his team's second with a speedy run down the right, but his cross was competently cleared by Aaron Healey, but the important two goal cushion was installed shortly after when Madundo Semahimbo did well on the other wing before delivering a perfect cross for Kolodynski to head home from close range on 75 minutes.
Rugby looked the more likely to score again in the remaining period of play, with Shaw shooting over after Josh Thomas's pass had released him, and Hancocks also missing the target with his effort late on.
Rugby line-up: Bodycote, English, Eden, Summerfield, Clarke, Fitzharris (J.Thomas), Marsden (Hancocks), Lock (Shaw), Kolodynski, Elliott, Semahimbo. Subs not used: Recci, Francis
Rothwell line-up: O'Connor, Yerolohu, Busch, Page, Healey, Bird, Allen, Merrick, Phillip, Miller, Wells. Subs: Brooks, Robinson, Green, King
Rugby Star Man: David Kolodynski