Redditch United 3 Merthyr Town 1
Southern League Premier Division
LIAM McDonald is hoping two-goal debutant Jazz Luckie can finally fill the year-long void left by Jermaine Hylton in Redditch United’s attack.
Luckie, signed from Stafford Rangers, enjoyed a dream debut for the Reds on Saturday as he netted after just one minute, 40 seconds and then doubled the lead on 33 minutes.
Although Merthyr’s second half revival was rewarded with a goal from Rhys Baggeridge on 83 minutes, substitute Cameron Young’s wonderful finish seconds after coming on guaranteed three vital points to push the Reds into third place in the table.
Boss McDonald was delighted to see the Reds – having lost their 11-match unbeaten run on Boxing Day at Stratford – get back to their best with a dominant first half display.
Sharp finishing from Luckie put them in the ascendancy and then rock-solid defending, led by the outstanding Jim Mutton, ensured Merthyr returned to Wales empty-handed.
After so many draws in the past two months, McDonald was delighted to see ex-Chasetown and Tividale forward Luckie provide a cutting edge as a ‘fox in the box’.
“He has got so many qualities,” said McDonald. “He is not necessarily a prolific scorer but he is a fox in the box who gets into the right places at the right times.
“Out of possession, he runs the line well, and physically he will hold the ball up. He is willing to run behind, he is willing to close down.
“We’ve not had a striker like that since Jermaine left to go to Swindon a year ago. He is not the same player as Jermaine but he puts the work in. We’ve probably lacked that since the start of the season.”
Reds’ groundsman Lee Birch and Julian Workman had performed miracles to make the pitch playable after incessant rain and their hard work was soon rewarded as the Reds led 2-0 after half an hour.
Luckie’s willingness to gamble was quickly in evidence as the Reds netted with their first real attack.
Jamey Osborne’s shot from the edge of the area was pushed away by keeper Tom Bradley diving to his left and Luckie was already galloping into the six-yard box to tap home the rebound.
Mutton had a shot blocked and Osborne’s near post strike was scrambled clear as the Reds poured forward.
Merthyr, however, gave a warning of their threat when they twice struck the woodwork, as Chris Hugh hit the outside of the far post from the left and then Ian Traylor clipped the top of the bar with a curling effort from the right.
However, Redditch’s response came four minutes later as they doubled their lead and again it was an example of Luckie’s enthusiasm as he nipped in to win a back-header from Bradley on the edge of the area and then slid home to bundle in a second goal.
Inevitably, Merthyr tried to rally after the break, and Reds keeper Jose Veiga grabbed a shot from Jon Brown straight after half time and then Kayne McLaggon scooped a close-range effort over.
Centre back Rhys Baggeridge finally got their reward on 83 minutes when he side-footed home from a free kick from the right and the visitors sensed they could snatch an equaliser.
However, any home anxiety vanished in the third minute of stoppage time when Will Richards’ pass sent Young galloping from the halfway line to outpace the covering defenders and then tuck home a composed finish through the legs of keeper Bradley.