PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Rugby Town's hopes of pushing themselves up into the race for promotion from the United Counties Premier South took a huge blow at Butlin Road on Tuesday evening, when their recent fine run of results came to an end with a local derby defeat against Long Buckby, writes Jon Venner.
Three days previously, Valley had rounded off a perfect October by returning from Bedfordshire with a 4-1 victory over Biggleswade United, but their five game winning streak then came to a disappointing end as Buckby punished the below-par hosts by a 3-1 margin.
Town had made unnecessarily hard work of despatching the division's basement club at the weekend though, where a combination of their profligacy in front of goal and an inspired display from Biggleswade keeper Ollie Leslie almost tripped them up.
Edwin Ahenkorah gave Rugby a slender advantage at the break, but this was chalked off when Taylor Rhiney equalised for United just past the hour mark.
Valley skipper Loyiso Recci's header to a Luke English long throw saw the lead restored, with two further strikes from Danico Johnson - the first of which came direct from a corner - gave the scoreline a more reassuring look to it.
The midweek visitors had come into the fixture without a win in seven outings, which had seen them drop to 17th in the table, but they sneaked into the lead just before the end of a generally uninspiring first half when Adam Shaw scored the opener.
The new period was more eventful though, with David Kolodynski's well-struck effort from twenty yards soon drawing a fine save from Scott Martin.
However, Town were then temporarily reduced to nine men when both Dylan Parker and Loyiso Recci were sinbinned for dissent, and they were punished for their numerical disadvantage when Ryan Ansell headed home just as the clock was up on the duo's ten minute absence.
Liam Francis gave the frustrated Valley faithful some hope though, when he looped the ball in after a James Hancocks' set-piece delivery, but despite a few decent chances - including one for Johnson which appeared to be blocked on the goal-line by one of his own team mates, Rugby were unable to make a further breakthrough, with Buckby's Baillie O'Reilly ultimately rounding off the scoring with a late goal.
The defeat left Town in eighth place, with the gap between them and the current top two - Harborough and Hinckley - looking increasingly unlikely to be bridged in the remaining six months of the UCL campaign.
Valley must now pick themselves up for a trip to another of the division's strugglers, when they visit Peterborough Northern Star this Saturday.
Peterborough have enjoyed just two wins and a draw from their eighteen league games to-date, having failed to win at all last season in the curtailed 2020/21 campaign.
Following on from this weekend's trip, Valley then face back-to-back Saturday Butlin Road match-ups, with Desborough there in the league on November 13th, before Hinckley visit in the FA Vase seven days later - as the club look to register their best return in the competition since their reappearance in it in 2017 following a 33 year absence.
# Town's Youth Team travel to Long Eaton tonight (Thursday) in the First Round Proper of the FA Youth Cup, where they will be looking to establish a club record by progressing into the next stage for the first time in their history.
PROFLIGATE VALLEY MAKE HARD WORK OF BASEMENT BOYS
United Counties League - Premier Division South
Biggleswade United 1 Rugby Town 4
Town completed their perfect month of wins at the division's basement side, but they did make hard work of it at United's Second Meadow ground last Saturday.
A combination of Valley's woeful finishing and an inspired display from home keeper Ollie Leslie made it an un-necessarily uncomfortable afternoon for Rugby, but three goals within the final twenty minutes made sure the hosts continue to look for their first point of the league campaign.
The visitors' starting line-up showed just one change from the Vase victory at Belper six days earlier, with Alex Lock in for Justin Marsden.
Biggleswade arguably edged the opening exchanges on a decent playing surface, but the pattern of the game was soon set when David Kolodynski was played through on goal by James Hancocks - only to put his chipped effort wide of the target.
Town then wasted a triple chance to open the scoring, with Lock first denied by Leslie before the same player hit the woodwork with his follow-up attempt, with Kolodynski blazing the next rebound over the bar.
Rugby continued to get in behind the susceptible United defence at will, but their finishing was often too elaborate. Meanwhile at the other end, the hosts had a one-on-one opportunity of their own, but fortunately Jake Woodward was equal to Taylor Rhiney's effort, after the forward had run onto a long clearance.
Danico Johnson missed another good chance after Barry Fitzharris and Kolodynski had combined to set him up, before Edwin Ahenkorah finally registered one on 34 minutes when he swivelled in the box to fire home from twelve yards after Valley had initially pounced on a defensive slip-up.
The chances continued to come Town's way, with Kolodynski guilty of two misses in quick succession when first the ball stuck under his feet as he found himself in a threatening position and then he chose an deft dink over power to allow Leslie to make a save.
Ahenkorah was denied a second by a well-timed tackle by Marcus Wilson, and Loyiso Recci and Johnson both had headers kept-out by the busy Leslie - with Luke English hitting the bar in the same passage of play.
Woodward was equal to a further strike from Rhiney before the interval, with the home side making another good start to a half after the break - without really threatening the target.
A great double stop by Leslie then maintained Rugby's slender advantage, when he saved Locke's effort and then flung himself acrobatically to get his fingers to Fitzharris's shot from the edge of the area.
Johnson shinned one wide of the goal, before disaster struck for Town when Keenah Rosser was penalised for a foul in the box on Braima Fati to allow Rhiney to successfully stroke the spot-kick into the middle of the goal for the equaliser just past the hour mark.
Valley regained the lead on 73 minutes though, when Loyiso Recci headed home English's long throw, before Kolodynski and sub Dylan Parker spurned more chances to extend the advantage further when clean through on goal.
However having just seen his shot saved by Leslie, Johnson then grabbed Town's third when he scored directly from his whipped-in corner.
Kolodynski, Parker and Johnson were all guilty of missing further opportunities as the United back-line tired in the closing stages, but Johnson did find the net in stoppage time when he finished off Ahenkorah's cut back from the right hand side.
Rugby line-up: Woodward, English, Hancocks, Rosser, L.Recci, O.Recci, Lock (Parker), Fitzharris, Kolodynski, D.Johnson, Ahenkorah. Sub not used: Clarke, Francis, Marsden, Bodycote
Biggleswade line-up: Leslie, Joyce, Ampadu, Andrews, Wilson, Puig-Vallis, Cousins, Hunt, Rhiney, Croucher, Fati. Subs: Newman, Ohabi, Otono
Rugby Star Man: Danico Johnson