A HAT-TRICK from Montel Gibson provided a welcome tonic for Redditch United who saw off Rushall Olympic 4-3 in an exciting Southern League Challenge Cup first round tie at the TRICO Stadium on Tuesday.
The Reds trailed 1-0 at the break to an 18th-minute goal from former United midfielder Ash Sammons but roared back in the second period as Gibson struck twice shortly after the break.
Sammons made it 2-2 just before the hour but Gibson’s third goal and a Giancarlo Gabbiadini strike meant Brian Smikle’s injury-time effort proved no more than a consolation for the Pics.
The result was a much-needed one for Paul Davis’ side in respect of confidence heading into Saturday’s FA Cup first qualifying round tie at home to lower ranked Rugby Town.
The Reds suffered a fifth league defeat in six Southern Premier Central games on Saturday despite a spirited performance as they were edged out in another seven-goal thriller against Leiston in Suffolk.
Striker Leam Howards gave the visitors a third-minute lead but it was 3-1 to the hosts midway through the first half after goals from Chris Henderson, Noel Aitkens and Jake Reed.
However, Davis’ men were not finished and Howards netted again in the second half before defender Liam Francis made it 3-3 in the 72nd minute, only for Byron Lawrence to restore the hosts’ advantage with what proved to be the winner a minute later.
Despite Saturday’s defeat – a third in succession – leaving United second bottom, the midweek cup win means spirits are still high within the camp, with Gibson, Nyeko Sinclair and keeper Ben Pierce among those taking to social media to show their feelings.
Pierce said: “Great win and performance from the lads. Into the next round… let’s build on this and take it into Saturday in the FA Cup. Congratulations to my boy Montel Gibson on his hat-trick.”
Gibson, who netted with a superb individual goal, added: “Happy to get a hat-trick for Redditch United and what a result it was. On to Saturday now!”
Boss Davis said: “After playing three away matches since our last home game, it felt like a lifetime since we beat St Ives and felt the win was going to kick-start our season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
“It is very difficult to play away from home in this league and, to be the only team in the country to have played three away games in a week, that was tough mentally and physically on the players.
“We are now midway through the most important week of the season. The midweek game gave us an opportunity to give some squad players some much-needed minutes and that has given me some difficult decisions to make before Saturday’s game in the FA Cup.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s defeat, Davis added: “We had trained on Thursday night, worked on how to play with a different shape and my staff and I felt all the players understood what was being asked of them.
“This was evident when we started the game well and went in front early on. However, after that, some players neglected to follow the game-plan, which had an effect on the team’s shape.
“We need to defend better as a group and improve our game management. We should not concede three goals in five minutes and, when we draw level at 3-3, I expect us to at least come away with a point, if not all three.”