REDDITCH United boss Paul Smith has challenged his players to show the same team spirit and resilience which helped secure last-gasp draws against high-flying opposition when the Reds visit St Neots Town in Southern Premier Central on Saturday.
There were jubilant scenes at leaders Kettering Town (4-4) the previous midweek and then at the Trico Stadium against King’s Lynn Town on Saturday (1-1) after Harry Franklin and Mitch Piggon rescued points from losing positions respectively.
While Smith said the performances were contrasting, he was thrilled with the character shown in both fixtures as United took their points tally to 20 from 17 games – leaving them six points from both the play-off and drop zones.
“We were outstanding against Kettering and deserved the three points, so it would have been an injustice not to come away without anything to show for our efforts,” said Smith.
“Against King’s Lynn, though, we were sluggish and didn’t turn up in the first half. I must praise the opposition as well – that was the best first half performance I’ve seen from a side since I arrived at the Trico. Their movement was outstanding and we couldn’t get near them.
“We made some changes to personnel and shape at half-time and it paid off for us. So, while we thoroughly deserved something against Kettering, we were just as delighted to nick something in a game that could’ve been dead and buried on Saturday.”
Smith spoke highly of his substitutes, all of whom helped change the momentum against King’s Lynn.
He said: “I thought the two players who came on at half-time (Michael Nelson and Franklin) changed the dynamic of the game, along with the shape change, while Mitch Piggon was exceptional for 25 minutes.
“He was our brightest spark with his flick-ons, ability to hold the ball up and feed players around him and he deserved his goal.”
Smith said third-bottom St Neots represent “dangerous opposition” and “we will need to be at it from the first whistle”. The game begins a festive period of six games in 23 days, which excites the manager and he will be looking to utilise his squad fully over the period.
“We have a strong squad, there are players pushing for starts and places in the squad, which comes down to the depth we have at our disposal and that will be crucial as we go through this phase of the season,” added Smith.
Midfielder Ahmed Ali remains unavailable, but versatile Lewis Wright and midfielder George Washbourne should be fit and available for the clash after overcoming injuries.
On a lighter note, heading into the festive period, the players will be heading out shortly on their Christmas jumper night out and the gaffer has offered them all a little incentive.
He said: “I have offered a prize of £100 to the player with the best jumper. There’s no chance I’ll be keeping the cash with my choice, though!”