THE RETURN of fans to Butlin Road helped ease the blow of defeat for Rugby Town in their final pre-season friendly on Tuesday night.
A respectable 2-0 loss against opposition from two levels above – namely Southern League Premier Central outfit Barwell – meant Valley lost their unbeaten record in friendlies, having won two and drawn three of their warm-up fixtures previously.
But the sight of spectators back in the ground and the successful implement of other precautionary actions against COVID-19 will rank the evening as a success for Town, off the pitch if not on it.
Director Neil Melvin spoke positively of the online ticketing system, which allowed a maximum gate of 150 fans, and says the same structure will be in place for the Rugby faithful to attend their season opener at home to Worcester City in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup – albeit with an increased crowd of 300 allowed for Tuesday night’s fixture (7.45pm).
“We were happy with the way the ticket sale process worked,” he said.
“Tickets will be on a first come first served basis so I would urge supporters to purchase one through the club website – or failing that visit Melbros [Great Central Way, Rugby, CV21 3XH] in person – as soon as they can to ensure they will be able to get in on the night.”
As far as matters on the pitch were concerned in mid-week, a goal in each half from the Leicestershire visitors subjected Valley to a first taste of defeat this season, with Brady Hickey firing home from the penalty spot and Massiah McDonald heading home after the break.
Chances were by no means at a premium for Carl Adams’ side though, as Justin Marsden saw his effort cleared off the goal line and Jamal Clarke firing over from a good position.
All in all, Rugby will feel content with their efforts in pre-season, having dismantled Romulus 7-1 and then St. Andrews 7-0 after getting underway with stalemates against FC Stratford, Gresley Rovers and Highgate United.
The focus now firmly turns to competitive action with the commencement of the United Counties League Premier Division on Saturday September 5 (3pm) following Rugby’s cup tie in mid-week.
A trip to Pinchbeck United gets the league campaign underway, potentially followed by a further six games across all competition before September is out.
Cogenhoe United then visit Butlin Road on Tuesday September 8, before an away game at Shepshed Dynamo on Tuesday September 15.
Three successive home fixtures then follow, starting with a meeting with Bilston Town in the first qualifying round of the FA Vase [September 19] and league showdowns with Deeping Rangers and Desborough Town [September 26 and September 29 respectively.