REDDITCH United’s remaining chance of silverware this season was ended by a 1-0 defeat to visitors Highgate United in the Birmingham Senior Cup on Tuesday – but Reds boss Paul Smith was far from downbeat as he prepares his side for a trip to league leaders Kettering Town.
Smith’s former club Highgate – two levels below the Reds – prevailed in a largely scrappy second round encounter thanks to Aaron Brown’s 85th-minute header from McCauley Manning’s corner as Redditch failed to build on Saturday’s impressive 4-2 Southern League Premier Central victory over Lowestoft Town thanks to goals from Harry Franklin, Ahmed Ali (2) and Leam Howards.
However, Smith preferred to take the positives from his side’s fine recent upturn in form and knows only maximum levels of performance will be enough to earn points from the next two league matches – Tuesday’s visit to table-topping Kettering and the home clash against play-off hopefuls King’s Lynn Town a week on Saturday.
“We huffed and puffed without ever really getting going against Highgate and the game lacked quality generally,” said Smith.
“Saying that, we did have a few chances, as did they, and in the final 15 minutes in particular we started to look dangerous and probably should have got something.
“We have a large squad here now with lots of options and there are no real fringe players as such, so it was important to get minutes into players who needed them and that will help us moving forward.
“You could see the difference Ahmed Ali and Robbie Bunn made when they came on and being able to leave them and the likes of Rob Evans and Jamie Ashmore out of the starting XI and still field a strong side shows the progress we’ve made and the strength of the side we are putting together.”
The Reds were below-par in the first half against Lowestoft at the Trico on Saturday and could count themselves fortunate to be level at the break thanks to Franklin’s 40th-minute equaliser.
However, United were much the better side in the second period and Ali’s brace and a strike from Howards secured the points, which leave Smith’s men in 16th place – four points above the drop zone but only six outside the play-off places.
Smith said: “We were outworked in the first half and I had to give the players a bit of a roasting at half-time, but the response in the second half was impressive and it was good to see goals coming from across the pitch.
“We haven’t got a prolific scorer as such but there is a contribution from all angles and it was a great three points for us. That’s five wins in six league games with the only loss against a strong Stourbridge side, so I’ve got to be pleased with that.”
On the transfer front, United have swooped to sign 6ft 4in striker Mitch Piggon, who has scored 14 goals in 17 games for Midland Premier outfit Romulus this season.
Smith said: “We have great pace in forward areas but have lacked a physical presence and Mitch will add this to us.”
Outgoing, attacker Montel Gibson has moved to Bedworth United and midfielder Mason Birch has joined Worcester City.