REDDITCH United boss Liam McDonald has challenged his side to secure victory against Biggleswade Town at the Valley Stadium on Saturday and take their pursuit of a Southern League Premier Division play-off place into the final week of the season.
The Reds’ 2-0 victory at Burnham on Saturday and some favourable results elsewhere mean seventh placed United are three points adrift of the final play-off place with two matches remaining and, because of their superior goal difference compared to that of St Neots Town and Weymouth, know maximum points this weekend will keep mathematical hopes of a top five finish alive at the very least until Weymouth play their game in hand at home to title-chasing Poole Town on Tuesday.
Whilst only retaining a “slim” chance of earning a play-off spot, McDonald was pleased with his side’s victory in Buckinghamshire on Saturday and is delighted the success means the Valley Stadium faithful will have another opportunity to cheer their side on in a meaningful fixture as their regular league home campaign comes to a close.
“I’d like to thank our fans for playing a massive part in our successful season, especially those who travel in good numbers to away games, where in particular they do make a big difference in terms of inspiring the players,” said McDonald.
“This season has been a great experience for the team and myself and I’d like to think the fans have relished it as well. I was probably a surprise appointment as manager to some of them, but they have stuck by me and I appreciate that.
“We want to put in a good performance on Saturday now to finish in style at home and we’re desperate to do so because all the play-off permutations will count for nothing from our perspective if we do not get three points.
“We would love to keep the play-off bid alive heading to Arlesey Town on the final day and I have to say I think we deserve that given what we have put into the season, above and beyond many people’s expectations.
“We’ve arguably been the biggest entertainers in the division and I am proud of that.”
Whilst not being at their most fluent best, Redditch were comfortable winners on Saturday as a first goal for the club from Mor Serigne Diop and an Ashley Sammons penalty inside the opening 32 minutes put the visitors in command.
McDonald said: “It was a professional performance, the sort you need at this stage of the season.
“It was a hot day and not a great pitch so it was good to get the lead and be able to play on the counter-attack. Being 2-0 up allowed me to take off Jordan Jones and Ashley Sammons at half time and give them a well earned breather ahead of this weekend, because they’ve played 50-odd games this season.
“We played a different system and Diop had a very good game. He led the line well and I’m pleased with him.”
McDonald, who revealed he had chosen what will be a “very attack-minded” starting XI whilst on the team coach returning from Burnham, now has his fingers crossed that, should the Reds prevail on Saturday, his team’s prospects will be enhanced by results elsewhere.
“Pressure does strange things to football teams and anything can happen,” said the manager.
“We felt the pressure and that doesn’t surprise me because we are a young side, but some of the other clubs up there have experienced outfits and they are feeling it too.
“You look at the way Poole have stuttered having seemingly got the title wrapped up and then there’s Weymouth who a couple of months ago had a decent shot at the title but have taken nine points from 36.
“The pressure’s off us now and I just hope we can win and keep the pressure on others.”
Key remaining fixtures in play-off picture: April 18 – Cirencester Town v Hungerford Town; REDS v Biggleswade Town; St Neots Town v Chippenham Town; Weymouth v Corby Town.
April 21 – Weymouth v Poole Town.
April 25 – Arlesey Town v REDS; Biggleswade Town v Weymouth; Cirencester Town v Burnham; Frome Town v St Neots Town; Hungerford Town v Paulton Rovers.