Sileby Rangers 3 Thurnby Nirvana 4 (Still one of the best games of football I have ever seen)
Desborough Town 2 Leicester Nirvana 4
Rothwell Corinthians 1 Leicester Nirvana 3
Kirby Muxloe 0 Leicester Nirvana 3
I have only seen Rugby play once since starting this blog (although I saw VS Rugby play at Stourbridge a few times many years ago), a 1-0 home defeat to Daventry in Step 4. Interestingly, both of these sides have slipped down the pyramid since then, both finding themselves in the United Counties Premier Division this season.
There were plenty of Valley supporters milling around when I arrived and they had already put their flags and banners up at the far end of the ground. The biggest topic of discussion in the bar seemed to be their position as favourites for the league. The majority of supporters seemed to think that it was nowhere near as clear-cut as that and that they would need to work very hard to achieve promotion. "We are in Step 5 for a reason" was the general consensus.
In quite blustery conditions, Rugby opened the quicker and certainly looked the sharper side in the first 10-15 minutes.The game burst into life on 12 minutes when Rugby came very close to opening the scoring. A neat move saw Blythe burst into the box but Chey Carter was very quick to spread himself and block the effort. Within two minutes, Nirvana had a similar opportunity but Hill proved himself as adept as his counterpart, saving very smartly. Nirvana then had a free-kick on the edge of the area which Savjani put just over the Rugby bar
On 21 minutes Nirvana taok the lead in somewhat controversial circumstances. A quite clear Nirvana push in midfield went unpunished and the home side took advantage of the Rugby players stopping to appeal by breaking down their left flank. Suleman Nassor showed good awareness to slide over a very tempting cross and Jordan Nelson was on hand at the near post to force the ball home. 1-0
The goal changed the game completely. The belief seemed to drain from Rugby and Nirvana's tails were up. They were the team playing all of the football. It has to be said that Leicester managed the game very well from this point onwards. Some would say gamesmanship, I would say game management. They had clearly spotted that the referee didn't have full control over the game. I don't like to criticise officials, but this game needed a strong man in the middle. It didn't have one.
Nirvana can certainly play good football. They can also mix it when they need to. Rugby allowed themselves to be drawn into a toe-to-toe battle with Nirvana. They allowed Nirvana's tactics of taking their time with every dead ball to get under their skin. It was a battle that they never looked like winning.
Leicester just had too much nous for them, as well as, on the day, being the better football team.
Rugby did have a penalty claim when Rankin and Carter collided in the area, but it was waved away by the referee and, on this occasion, it looked like he got that decision spot on.
HT Leicester Nirvana 1 Rugby Town 0. A very stop-start game punctuated by plenty of niggles and fouls. The referee needs to get a grip on the game. A red card is looking almost nailed on in the second-half if he continues to frustrate the players with inconsistent decisions.
An increasing number of flare-ups and stoppages didn't help Rugby find any fluency either. Again, I put this down to Nirvana managing the game better and having more experience than their visitors. They knew that they had their opponents rattled and they took complete advantage of it.
With 16 minutes of the 90 remaining and with Rugby pressing forward, Nirvana hit them on the break down the right flank. This time it is Nassor who is on the end of a low cross, leaving him the simple task of tapping into an empty net. 2-0 and no way back for Rugby now.
FT Leicester Nirvana 2 Rugby Town 0. An untidy game but a well earned three points for Nirvana. The most amazing statistic is that we still had 22 players on the pitch at the end.
Nirvana are a good side and, on this evidence, could be contenders this season. However, they will need to ensure that they keep their discipline. They have some very talented individuals but are far too ready to get involved in a physical confrontation. If they stick to playing football, they could play a lot of teams off the park in this league.
For me, Rugby seemed to find their title favourites tag weighing heavily on their shoulders. Once they went 1-0 down, they never really looked like getting back into the game. However, it's not easy to tell from one game. They looked pretty good for the first 20 minutes but allowed themselves to be distracted from the game, as well as being frustrated by the officials decisions.
Leicester Nirvana: Carter, Gore, Bahrey, Calver, Harper, Bains, Gonga, Savjani, Nassor, Nelson, Master. Subs: Mudhur, De Lacerda, Brown-Wingfield, Glover
Rugby Town: Hill, Rosser, Thomas, Edwards, Recci, Perkins, Rankin, Bunting, Adams, Johnson, Blythe. Subs: Evans, Holloway, Kavanagh, Blake, Marsden
Ground Number: 160