By Jamie Arrowsmith 18/04 Updated: 24/04 16:27
RUGBY Town’s Southern League Division One Central play-off hopes are hanging by a thread after they put in one of their worst performances of the season on Saturday to lose 4-0 at North Greenford.
To make things even more frustrating, the reverse came in a weekend where the two teams that were immediately above them - Beaconsfield and Biggleswade - also both lost their games, meaning Dave Stringer’s side missed out on an opportunity to close the three point gap between them and the play-off zone.
Northwood’s victory at fifth-placed Beaconsfield saw the Middlesex club jump above Rugby too, meaning Town are even more dependent upon the failings of others in the final two games of the regular campaign, if they are to make the play-offs.
To achieve a top five spot, Valley must hope that Beaconsfield fail to record a win in their final two matches at Fleet and home to Daventry, and that they also outperform both the Waders and the Woods.
Town travel to AFC Hayes on Saturday, before finishing off with a home game against bottom side Marlow next weekend. Biggleswade appear to have the toughest run-in with fixtures against fourth-placed Uxbridge and Bedworth in third - with the Greenbacks sealing their place in the play-offs last weekend with an impressive 5-3 win over Slough.
Stringer accepted that the Greenford defeat was a huge setback, saying: “It was a disaster. We just didn’t get going, which with the way the division was balanced going into the game was so disappointing.
“We did ok for the first 40 minutes I suppose, but we got caught on the break just before half time and then things just got worse in the second half.”
Town defender Ed Booth became the fourth Valley player to receive his marching orders in just five games after the restart, in a decision Stringer described as “harsh, but within the letter of the law”.
“The scoreline was exaggerated a little when they scored twice more late on with us chasing the game, but to be honest we didn’t deserve anything from it,” he added.
Saturday’s opponents Hayes looked play-off possibles themselves for a large part of the 2011-12 campaign, but just three wins in their last 15 league games over the last three months put paid to their challenge - although last Saturday’s 1-0 success at Chalfont did lift them back into the top half of the table.
Stringer will be boosted by the return from suspension of Ross Miller and Michael Williams, although striker Seb Hamilton is still unavailable - as he serves the final game of his four match ban.
Booth will also be eligible for selection this weekend, with his one-match absence not kicking in until the clash against Marlow.
Despite their latest setback, Stringer is trying to remain positive. “We still have a fighting chance if we can take all the six points that are on offer,” he said.
“Of course we are now hoping teams elsewhere do us favours, but there may well be one further twist to this league and we know what’s needed of us if there is.”
THE club coach to Hayes will leave the clubhouse at 11am. For latest information about availability of places, contact Tony Mann on 07970 691366.
TOWN’S reserves rounded off a relatively successful first season back in the Midland Combination League with a 1-1 home draw with Banbury.
That result sees Dan Elliott’s side secure a fifth place finish in the 12-team Reserve Division One, although victory on Tuesday evening would have seen them end third instead.
The team is mainly selected from participants of the Strachan Football Foundation apprenticeship programme which was launched last September, and has also already seen Luke Leahy progress into the Valley first team squad this season.
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