REDDITCH ended an impressive season with an entertaining 2-1 victory over Ludlow to clinch third place in West Midlands Division One.
However, whilst the win was enough for the Kingfishers to leapfrog their Shropshire visitors, it was not enough for them to overhaul Stourport 2nds whose 6-0 victory over relegated West Bromwich was enough for them to maintain second place and secure promotion alongside champions Market Drayton.
Keen to do their bit in case of any upset at Stourport which could have opened the door to promotion, Redditch began in lively fashion, as did Ludlow as both teams enjoyed plenty of possession but without causing any real threat in the first half.
In the second half both teams began to take more risks in search of a breakthrough. Andy Billingham had another good game at centre back for Redditch, defending and distributing the ball well, with Eugene Read and Harry Saunders providing the team with width.
Goalkeeper Joe Cardy made a string of good saves from Ludlow penalty corners and the midfield of Pete Dawson, Mike Slater and Dan Jakeman covered a lot of ground, moving the ball quickly into the channels when Redditch pressed forward.
Seventeen-year-old Harry Williams capped a good season with a fine performance in midfield, showing great stick skill and commitment to break down the Ludlow defence. His best chance of the game came early in the second half, falling on his reverse stick, but the shot went whistling over the bar.
As with many of their games this season though, Redditch found themselves a goal behind and with all the work to do as Ludlow finally broke the deadlock with 15 minutes left.
However, determination up front from the Redditch forward line of James Makin, Dan Waite and top goalscorer Jacob Beard saw Redditch win a penalty corner almost instantly in reply.
Beard beat two Ludlow defenders and his shot was saved, but the rebound fell to Waite who squared the ball to captain Adrian Young. His shot was also saved but the ball once again rebounded into Waite’s path and this time, from a tight angle, he was able to flick the ball over the stranded Ludlow keeper and into the net.
With five minutes to play and knowing a draw would see them finish fourth, coach Wayne Beard took a risk and substituted Redditch goalkeeper Cardy in favour of another attacker, which gave Redditch 11 outfield players.
They piled the pressure on and with two minutes remaining won another penalty corner. This time a perfect injection from Jakeman was stopped at the top of the D by Harry Saunders for Jacob Beard to play the ball square to Waite.
His shot was saved but the loose ball was pounced upon by Young whose dive at the far post got the touch needed to put the ball into the back of the Ludlow net.
Keeper Cardy was reinstated and Redditch held on for the final two minutes to seal victory.
Skipper Young said: “Those tactics are quite often seen in international standard hockey but you never see it happen in West Midlands Division One!
“Fair play to Wayne (the coach) for taking the risk. On this occasion it worked and we got the result we deserved.
“I’m really proud of the boys. They’ve worked really hard all season.”