Redditch United 3 Chesham United 1
RARELY has an opening day contest provided such an example of attacking invention and then defensive prowess as Redditch United’s Southern League Premier Division win against Chesham on Saturday.
Playing at Stratford Town as work continues on the Valley Stadium’s new 3G pitch, Darren Byfield’s rebuilt team enjoyed the perfect start as Javia Roberts and Clinton Morrison fired them into a deserved 2-0 half time lead.
However, the 55th minute sending-off of Reds skipper Clayton McDonald completely transformed the contest as the ten men then faced constant pressure.
Chesham’s Dave Pearce pulled a goal back on 63 minutes and the visitors then pegged the Reds back into their own half in a nerve-jangling finale until Liam Spink charged forward in the final minute and set up Jazz Luckie for Redditch’s third goal to spark joyous celebration and three points to open the season.
The Reds, with just four players remaining from the squad which ended last season after Liam McDonald left, were positive from the start, but Chesham also played their part in an entertaining contest.
McDonald was frustrated early on when his header from Max Loveridge’s corner flew straight at Chesham keeper Ashlee Jones.
However, the Reds were celebrating on 32 minutes with a slick opening goal. Morrison’s flick sent Danico Johnson racing goalwards and, after hustling his way past two defenders and rolling his shot beyond Jones, Roberts charged in to apply the finishing touch.
Chesham threatened to equalise when Bruce Wilson’s angled shot was well saved by keeper Brad Catlow and then Matt Taylor’s fierce drive was inches wide.
The Reds were again ruthless for a second goal two minutes before half time. Morrison forced an error from defender Adam Martin midway in the Chesham half and Johnson nicked the ball and then picked out his strike partner at the far post for the ex-Birmingham City forward to slam the ball home.
Chesham had created half-chances, with Ryan Blake’s shot being easily saved by Catlow, who also pounced on Wilson’s angled drive, while Wilson’s effort was flicked away by a defender after Catlow had been flattened trying to punch away a corner.
It became a totally different game when McDonald charged into a challenge with Benji Crilley on the right flank, sending the Chesham full back into the air and being shown the red card immediately by referee Richard Price.
Chesham seized the initiative with former United midfielder Sam Youngs sending a header over and then Pearce side-footed home at the far post from Taylor’s good work to pull a goal back on 63 minutes.
The visitors dominated possession, but the Reds defence, led by Duane Courtney, held firm, and the closest Chesham came to an equaliser was when Catlow stretched out a glove to deny Brad Wadkins in a scramble.
Minutes later, Spink won a tackle midway in the Reds half and then raced away past former Birmingham City defender Darren Purse down the left flank.
Luckie took his cross, side-stepped the keeper and slotted home superbly to settle matters in thrilling style.