REDDITCH United boss Duane Darby is hoping new recruit Ben Stokes can inspire the Trico Stadium side just as his namesake has done with the England cricket team.
The footballing Stokes – a 22-year-old midfielder – has arrived from Southern League Division One Central side St Neots Town in a bid to boost a Reds side whose run of Southern Premier Central defeats has stretched to 17 despite vastly improved displays against promotion-chasing Banbury United and Royston Town over the past week.
Stokes began in Tamworth’s youth system before joining league rivals Coalville Town halfway through the 2017/18 season, initially with the development squad.
He went on to make a handful of starts for the first team during the last few games before moving to Northern Premier League Division One South East side Carlton Town in October 2018 in search of more regular senior football.
Another new arrival at Redditch is young striker Stanley Anaebonam, 20, a former player with Midland League Premier Division side AFC Wulfrunians who has also been with National League side Solihull Moors’ academy.
Darby will hope the pair can help fellow new recruit Brandon Diau who has made a fine start to his Reds career, although without anything tangible to show for it.
Redditch are nine points behind fourth-bottom Stratford Town – who they welcome to the Trico on Tuesday – although with a game in hand after two gallant defeats.
On Saturday, the Reds went down 4-2 at Banbury United despite leading 2-1 at the break after Josh Endall’s towering header and Diau’s strike overturned the hosts’ early opener.
However, two penalties in the space of the opening 11 minutes of the second half turned the match on its head once again and a goal on the counter-attack 14 minutes from time killed off the visitors.
In midweek Redditch, for whom Stokes debuted, again managed to ruffle the feathers of high-flying hosts without any reward.
The visitors trailed 1-0 at the break and there looked to be no way back when a goal direct from a corner doubled Royston’s lead on the hour.
However, Diau’s 79th-minute spot kick reduced the arrears and Redditch were left livid when just three minutes later Luke Shearer was hauled down in the box but no penalty was given.
Despite a late siege on the home goal there was no further scoring and Darby’s men left empty-handed.