REDDITCH United made it three successive wins in all competitions with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over visitors Rushall Olympic on Tuesday.
Fresh from their League Cup victory against Halesowen Town and Saturday’s hugely impressive 3-1 comeback win at Tamworth, the Reds were less impressive against Rushall, but sent Liam McDonald’s side home empty-handed thanks to a late goal from substitute Michael Nelson.
The night had begun in fine fashion for Paul Smith’s side when new signing Ahmed Ali – in his second spell at the club – converted at the near post from a corner on four minutes, but Rushall fought back impressively and were level by the break and could count themselves unfortunate to be beaten after having the better of the second half.
However, the match was evidence of the new-found resilience within the Redditch ranks and shows they are capable of grinding out victory as well as prevailing with the free-flowing football shown at The Lamb on Saturday.
Rushall responded well to falling behind and were soon level on 11 minutes when Joe Hull climbed highest to head from from Tyler Lyttle’s corner.
Having seen their advantage wiped out, United hit back and Robbie Bunn fired inches wide before Dave Reynolds sent a chipped effort just over the bar.
Andy Parsons then volleyed over and on 32 minutes Shaquille Leachman-Whiitingham beat Lyttle but struck his effort just wide.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were evenly matched but the introduction of former United midfield maestro Ash Sammons midway through the period turned the momentum in the Pics’ favour and twice the former Birmingham City man went close to putting the visitors ahead.
Hull headed inches over the bar for Rushall but it was United who bagged the decisive third goal of the game when Leachman-Whittingham jinked his way towards the box and fed Nelson who drove to the edge of the box before thumping a low shot past Joe Slinn.
The result was harsh on former Reds boss McDonald and Co but the jubilant home support cared not as their team built on Saturday’s victory.
Leachman-Whiitingham said on Twitter: “Get in!! Three on the bounce, lovely 2-1 win – not a good second half but we grafted and put in a shift – all that matters is three points!”
Nelson added: “Over the moon man. We worked hard, stuck together. Three points and another goal. Come on boys!!!!!”
Smith saluted his players’ “tremendous second half performance” on Saturday after recovering from a goal down to help Smith secure his first Southern Premier Central victory in charge of the Reds.
After a formation change and a strong half-time team talk, United secured the three points thanks to goals from Max Loveridge, debutant Parsons and Nelson.
Smith was full of praise for his team, especially substitutes Loveridge and Nelson, but he acknowledged both his and the players’ performance in the first half was not good enough.
“I hold my hands up and accept responsibility for setting us up with a different shape. It didn’t work, which is why I made the change after 25 minutes but, collectively, the first 45 minutes was unacceptable and we addressed the issues at half-time,” said Smith.
“As a result, I was delighted with the second half performance. There was togetherness, commitment and quality all over the pitch and that is what I expect from my team going forward.”
The headlines were made by the substitutes, but Smith preferred to focus on the collective effort at full-time and ensure the team does not get carried away.
“Of course, the substitutes take the plaudits and they have given me a selection headache, but that’s what I want – competition for places and strength in depth.
“It’s vitally important we stay grounded and use the momentum gained and qualities shown moving forward.”
The Reds return to action on Tuesday with the visit of Rugby Town in the first round of the Birmingham Senior Cup.
Meanwhile, two Reds fixtures have been rearranged. The Reds will now welcome Stourbridge to The TRICO Stadium on Tuesday, November 13 and will visit Kettering Town on Tuesday, November 27.