Defeats hit Town’s play-off hopes

By Jamie Arrowsmith 14/03 Updated: 14/03 12:21

Buy photos » Seb Hamilton brings the ball under control against St. Neots on Tuesday night. Picture by Martin Pulley.

RUGBY Town’s bid for a place in the Southern League Division One Central play-offs suffered a double blow over the past week, with back-to-back defeats in the two games played.

Valley followed up a single goal reverse at Ashford at the weekend with a 4-2 midweek home loss to leaders St. Neots, making Saturday’s Butlin Road clash with fellow play-off contenders Northwood a crucial one if they are to keep their hopes of a top five place alive.

In both of the recent defeats, Town squandered a number of good goalscoring opportunities and Dave Stringer’s men will need to quickly find their shooting boots for the run-in.

They will be without striker Tyrone Fagan for the next two games though as he serves a suspension for racking up ten bookings. Stringer has boosted his attacking options however, with the return to the club of Seb Lake-Gaskin.

The pacy Lake-Gaskin left Butlin Road to join Hucknall in January after scoring four times in 11 starts in a Valley shirt, but the ex-Tamworth winger has now rejoined for the final eight games of the season.

Stringer has also signed defender Craig Milligan from neighbours Daventry with the full back made his debut at Ashford.

Milligan started the current season at Redditch under Rugby’s assistant manager Martin Sockett, before switching to Communications Park - where he featured regularly for Daventry, including in the local derby Southern League Cup games at Butlin Road in January.

Stringer has moved to bolster his squad due to the hamstring injuries to Robbie Banks and top scorer Luke Keen, although Ben Steane is now back in contention following a spell on the sidelines and Melvin Gourlay may be ready for a comeback soon too.

Rugby’s bad week has seen them slip down a place to seventh in the table with Uxbridge now moving above them on goal difference.

Town are now a point off fifth-placed Biggleswade and a just a point ahead of this weekend’s visitors Northwood.

The Woods are not in particularly great form of late though, with only two wins in their last six matches.

In the reverse fixture at Chestnut Avenue in November the two sides played out a 3-3 draw, with Luke Leahy and Seb Hamilton (2) on target for Rugby.

Another doubt for Saturday is full back Alex Austin after he pulled out of the St. Neots defeat in the pre-match warm-up, meaning a last minute recall to the starting line-up for the experienced Gary Moran.

Following the Northwood game, Town have another top of the table fixture to tackle next Saturday (March 24) with a trip to Beaconsfield who are currently six points clear of Valley in third.

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