LIAM McDonald has urged his Redditch United players to use the disappointment of seeing victory snatched from their grasp at Hungerford Town on Saturday to motivate themselves to maximum points against Slough Town at the Valley Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds are now without a victory in five league games but, having drawn 1-1 at fellow promotion hopefuls Weymouth and Hungerford in their last two league matches and having also suffered an unfortunate penalty shoot-out exit to a strong Worcester City line-up in the Worcestershire Senior Cup semi-final, there have been plenty of positives in the performances of the Reds players.
Redditch led 1-0 at Hungerford through Luke Shearer’s 15th minute penalty and looked set to close the gap on their fifth placed hosts to five points with three games in hand, but were forced to settle for a point after Charlie Mpi headed home from a corner in the third minute of stoppage time.
Redditch had been the dominant force for the first hour and could and arguably should have been further ahead, but they were rocked when defender Dan Scarr was dismissed for two yellow cards and his absence proved key as Town struck at the death.
McDonald admitted he had been faced by some dejected faces in the dressing room afterwards but, having seen the bigger picture, he and his players were eager to bag a much-needed victory over a Slough side who were thumped 7-1 by the Reds in the reverse fixture in October.
“It (Hungerford) was the third game running which we’ve dominated, bossed possession and had the bulk of the chances but, unfortunately, we haven’t killed a team off again,” said the United boss.
“However, I thought the lads were terrific. We played very well against an in-form team and our commitment to try and secure the victory was impressive.
“We’ve now got a run of games against sides lower down the table and, whilst we’ll show everyone the respect they deserve, I am confident we will be winning a lot of matches again if we keep these performance levels up.
“The onus is on the lads now, there’s no pressure from me for them to get results. If they can perform well in 12 cup finals which we have left then we could still reach the play-offs, but they need to show 100 per cent focus and commitment.
“We must remember where we’ve come from and the progress that’s been made. If you’d said to me at the start of the season we’d be in touch with the play-off picture at the end of February then I’d have been delighted.”
McDonald has obtained the services of towering centre back Clayton McDonald until the end of the season and the 26-year-old produced a fine display on his debut on Saturday.
The product of the Manchester City youth set-up has more than 100 Football League appearances under his belt, including 52 for Port Vale between 2011-13, and, having been without a club since leaving Southport in December, is set to play a key part for the Reds in the season finale.
“Clayton had a great game,” said the manager. “He was everything you’d want in a defender and he’s a quality addition. We are lucky to have him here.”
However, McDonald has urged fellow defender Scarr to learn from his red card on Saturday when, having already been booked, he hauled back a Hungerford player on the halfway line despite two covering team-mates being in the picture and was shown a second yellow.
“I was disappointed with Dan because it was a needless foul and he let himself and his team-mates down as it proved to be a turning point.
“He’ll also miss a game through suspension now but, to be fair, he’s a young lad who has done really here and as long as he learns from it then that’s fine.
“He’ll be in the side on Saturday and I am sure he’ll bounce back from it because he’s a good player.
“He turned down an approach from Halesowen Town this week and I’m very pleased he did because he’s an important player for us.”
Eighth placed Redditch, who are eight points behind Hungerford in the final play-off berth with three games in hand on the Berkshire side, play one of their games in hand on Wednesday when they visit Cambridge City.