The Evo-Stik League Southern
Published 25th September 2012
....Stafford Rangers of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division in the FA Trophy First Qualifying Round.
After a ten-day rest, the cup action continues and Dave Stringer’s men will be keen to make progress against their higher league opponents, who currently sit in mid-table, although they have only suffered only one league defeat to date.
Both Stafford and Rugby earned a bye in the Preliminary Round which was played earlier in the month to set up this weekend's encounter.
Valley had to sit out of action on Saturday with the FA Cup in progress, which saw Rugby’s conquerors Bedworth United falling to Barwell in the Second Qualifying Round and there was a good omen as Stafford lost away to lower league side Gresley FC.
Last season Rugby were knocked out of the Trophy at the first hurdle after a replay against Sutton Coldfield Town, while the season before Valley won two games in the competition before suffering a late defeat to NPL Premier Division opponents Stocksbridge Park Steels.
It is nearly fourteen years since the two sides last met in a competitive match. Darren Beckett and Ashley Warner were on target for Rugby in a 3-2 defeat to Rangers in December 1998 in front of a 199 crowd at Butlin Road in the Southern League Midland Division.
Since that time Stafford have been on a rollercoaster in the non-League Pyramid - spending two seasons in the Conference Premier between 2006 and 2008 before suffering two relegations in four seasons to find themselves back in the Northern Premier League.
This week, Town have moved to sign left-back Craig Kelly on a contract until the end of the season after impressing in his opening games for the club.
Rugby-born Kelly joins goalkeeper David Bevan and striker Seb Lake-Gaskin as a contracted player.
The 24-year-old Kelly, a former Coventry City trainee, joined Rugby from Long Buckby in the summer and has already been influential with two man of the match awards and two assists to his name in nine games so far.
Meanwhile, winger Michael Williams is still unavailable as he serves the last of his three-game ban for his sending-off back in August at Daventry Town, while Ross Miller and Richard Blythe should return to the squad after missing the last game against Nuneaton Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup.