Jubilant Town set to face local rivals

By Jamie Arrowsmith 29/02 Updated: 29/02 12:23

Buy photos » Luke Leahy celebrates with Luke Keen at Biggleswade on Tuesday night. Picture by Martin Pulley.

RUGBY Town head into Saturday’s home local derby against Daventry brimming with confidence after an excellent week saw them record victories against two of the other play-off hopefuls.

Town followed up on their comfortable 4-0 home success over Uxbridge on Saturday with a 1-0 victory at Biggleswade on Tuesday evening, and manager Dave Stringer was naturally delighted with the six points.

“It’s been a massive few days for us and to get the maximum return from the two games is excellent,” he said.

“Realistically we would have taken four points if you had offered them to us beforehand, so to get the six is a real bonus and sets us up nicely for the run-in.

“It’s been two very different victories though. Saturday was a great offensive performance and at Biggleswade we were particularly impressive defensively.”

Saturday’s win saw Valley leapfrog Uxbridge in the Southern League Division One Central table and they then advanced a further place up to sixth after their latest victory on Tuesday, although their stay there could be a short one with Northwood due to play at Bedfont tonight (Wednesday).

Nevertheless, it is all looking very positive for Stringer and his squad as they prepare to face their struggling neighbours this Saturday.

“Everyone is on a high, the players are on top of their game, and the togetherness is fantastic,” Stringer said.

“I think the key to our success at the moment is our work rate, and also that we have genuine competition for places within the squad.

“Players have come in who have been out for a while and done well, and that means that others have to work hard to displace them - which raises standards throughout.”

Daventry’s season this time round is in marked contrast to the 2010-11 campaign, when - but for an untimely points deduction and a mini-slump at the end of the campaign - they could have easily won the division.

They eventually lost out in the play-off final to Hitchin, but hopes were high for 2011-12 following the appointment of ex-Aston Villa midfielder Mark Kinsella as manager.

This season has been a disaster for them though and they suffered another defeat - their eighth in nine games - on Tuesday evening at home to St. Neots.

With just one league point to their name in 2012, Daventry have slipped to 20th in the table, a point clear of the relegation zone.

Despite the current gulf in positions, the match still promises to be a typically tight and competitive local derby.

Rugby’s home form has been impressive of late and their unbeaten run at Butlin Road now stretches to more than three months - with seven wins and a draw from their last eight home games, netting an impressive 26 times along the way.

Successive clean sheets have also been achieved with Ross Miller adapting well to an unfamiliar central defensive role in the absence of skipper Nik Preston and Alex Austin also finally getting the chance of a run in the side at full-back.

With 11 games remaining, Stringer is confident Valley can kick-on to challenge for a top five spot. He continued: “We’re in good form, and as long we can avoid any complacency - which I’m sure we can - we should be in there with a shout come the end of April.

“It’s important that we focus on one game at a time though, starting with what should be a classic derby this Saturday - with both sides having so much to play for.”

Stringer should have Andy Gundelach available after the midfielder was missing from the latest two victories, although Ben Steane’s groin injury may rule him out of contention once more.

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