REDDITCH United manager Liam McDonald has urged the Valley Stadium faithful to keep faith with his young guns after seeing a three-game losing streak dent the Reds’ Southern League Premier Division play-off hopes.
After being beaten 3-2 at fellow promotion hopefuls Truro City and Cirencester Town, Redditch were unable to return to winning ways on Saturday as Somerset outfit Paulton Rovers sealed the double over United with a 2-0 victory at the Valley.
However, whilst McDonald admitted his side were second best at the weekend, he firmly believes his players have the belief and ability to be able to maintain their push for a top five finish until the end of the season.
“No complaints about Saturday at all,” said McDonald. “Paulton won the aerial battles and second balls and dictated the pace of the game and, when you are second best in all these aspects of the game, then you will very rarely come out on top.
“The players have to take greater responsibility to boss games than that but, in fairness, they have almost always been up to the challenge this season.
“We’ve just hit a bad patch, we’ve had some tough matches, plenty of travelling and perhaps we’ve felt the pressure of our position in the table for the first time, but I am not going to get on the players’ backs at all because this has been a superb season.”
“Because of some of the results we’ve had, such as winning at (leaders) Poole Town for example, we are now seen as a scalp and that’s a compliment in itself to the players,” added McDonald.
“The team should be proud of the respect they’ve earned from other sides this season. We’ve moved two players into full-time football and have enhanced the games of numerous others, so there’s no doom and gloom here.
“This week has been about refocusing. We’ve done some Zumba sessions and some team games to relax a bit and inject some laughter into the situation and I am positive come kick-off at (second placed) Weymouth on Saturday the lads will be raring to go again.
“We are capable of beating Weymouth. It’s a good chance for us to again prove our worth and, if we could get a result, then everyone will be upbeat about our chances again.”
McDonald said he detected, for the first time in a long while, a slight air of negativity amongst some fans at the Valley on Saturday and, whilst thanking the supporters for their backing, he urged them to remain realistic about the Reds’ efforts and ambitions this season.
“This is not a dig at the fans at all, because they have been great and we all get caught up in the emotions of football, but perhaps one or two need to remember where we have come from.
“Only last season we were in a relegation battle for long parts of the campaign and, through sheer hard work and commitment on the training ground and on match days, we have come an awfully long way.
“Expectation levels have gone up, but we are punching above our weight in terms of how we are competing against sides with greater finances in this division, and I think the players have earned the right to have everyone’s backing during this blip.
“We’ve got another two tough matches coming up at Weymouth and Hungerford Town, but after that the fixtures look more favourable, so I am still confident we can be in the play-offs mix come the end of the season.”
McDonald, whose side are now eighth – six points behind Hungerford in the final play-off place but with three games in hand – has received some welcome news on the injury front.
“The Reds, who host Worcester City in a Worcestershire Senior Cup semi-final on Tuesday as they continue their defence of the trophy, should be able to welcome winger Dior Angus back into the fold within a fortnight following an ankle problem.
Meanwhile, prolific striker Jamie Molyneux has also been pencilled in for a return at home to Slough Town on February 28 as he recovers from a broken ankle.
“Jamie’s coming along really nicely after a bad injury,” said McDonald.
“He’s a naturally fit lad so I’ll have no concerns about throwing him straight back in once he’s medically OK.
“He’s a brilliant finisher and he, Courtney (Baker-Richardson) and Luke (Shearer) will give us real options up front.”