IMPRESSIVE Redditch United claimed their first pre-season victory as they cruised to a 3-1 success over local rivals Bromsgrove Sporting at the Trico Stadium on Saturday, writes Craig Gibbons.
It was the Rouslers’ first warm-up loss on the back of three victories in which they had scored 20 goals without conceding.
Pauly Apostolopoulos and Danico Johnson had given the Southern League Premier hosts a 2-0 half time lead before the former added his second of the game five minutes after the restart.
John Pykett then reduced the arrears in the 68th minute and, despite a late surge, the Rouslers could not add to their tally in front of a 574-strong crowd.
Redditch made a flying start as marauding new left back Nathan Fox eased himself down the left wing before pulling the ball back to Apostolopoulos who coolly side-footed the ball into the far corner.
Sporting goalkeeper Reece Francis then had to be at full stretch to deny McCauley Manning’s long-range effort from finding the top corner three minutes later.
Wade Malley and Joe Ward then both saw shots saved by Reds keeper Bradley Catlow up the other end moments later.
Sporting seemed to be lacking their sharpness from their previous three friendlies as a Ben Birch error almost let Manning make it 2-0 after 36 minutes, but Francis made himself big to make a crucial save.
However, two minutes later Francis was beaten as a clever through ball from Manning put Johnson in on goal and the latter calmly slotted the ball under the onrushing Sporting keeper.
On the stroke of half time it was almost 3-0 as the industrious and skilful Manning saw an angled shot drift agonisingly wide of the far corner.
Just like the start of the first period, Sporting conceded inside five minutes as a poor lofted ball at the back by Daniel Morris was picked up by Apostolopoulos who surged into the box before blasting the ball home to extend the Reds’ advantage to 3-0.
Following a string of substitutions, Sporting’s tempo picked up and they pulled one back with 22 minutes to go as Pykett netted the rebound from Jason Cowley’s rasping curling effort which cannoned off the crossbar.
Six minutes later Darren Byfield’s Reds almost restored their three-goal advantage but the post prevented Dior Angus from getting on the scoresheet after he got on the end of Curvin Ellis’ low cross from the right.
With ten minutes to go Angus was again involved and was unlucky not to find the back of the net when his drilled shot from inside the area whistled just beyond the far post.
Pykett then blasted over from a tight angle in the 85th minute as Sporting were beaten by their Step Three opponents.
The Reds continue their pre-season preparations tonight (Tuesday) with a home Worcestershire Senior Cup semi-final against Kidderminster Harriers before visiting Highgate United on Thursday.