REDDITCH United head to fellow Southern League Premier Division play-off hopefuls Tiverton Town on Saturday buoyed by an emphatic midweek League Cup victory over local rivals Stratford Town.
The Reds earned revenge for this season’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Carl Adams’ side with an impressive 3-0 win which booked a place in the last 16 and went some way to soothing the disappointment of Saturday’s frustrating 1-1 league draw at home to Merthyr Town.
Against Stratford, Zaqib Hussain put Darren Byfield’s side ahead in the 15th minute when he pounced to rob a dithering Christian Tudorache of possession before netting and a dominant home side doubled their lead on the stroke of half time when towering defender Orrin Pendley scored with a looping header from Pauly Apostolopoulos’ free kick.
Striker Spencer Weir-Daley put the outcome beyond doubt ten minutes into the second half when he converted from the penalty spot after winning the spot kick himself when he was fouled by Dan Summerfield.
Byfield handed a first start to midfielder Joseph Billingham and academy prospect Jack Nicholls came on as a second half substitute for the Reds, whose run of league matches without a victory extended to four on Saturday as Merthyr bagged a controversial late draw.
The home side looked on course for maximum points against another play-off chasing side when Kevin Monteiro coolly side-footed into the bottom left-hand corner in the 83rd minute following Danico Johnson’s pass inside the area.
However, the Welsh side levelled in controversial fashion in the 89th minute when, from a generously awarded free kick, substitute Kyle Copp’s set piece from the edge of the box evaded everyone and nestled into the bottom corner, leaving United keeper Ethan Ross helpless.
Moments earlier, Dior Angus had seen a close range strike saved and, at 1-1, Andi Thanoj crashed a thunderous long range strike against the post, but Byfield & Co had to settle for a share of the spoils from an entertaining encounter.
Before the break, Merthyr had much the better of proceedings as midfielder Ian Traylor twice went close, Kerry Morgan curled a free kick over and former Bristol Rovers forward Eliot Richards was denied by Ross.
At the other end Pendley went close for the Reds, who were much-improved in the second period as Johnson, Angus and Monteiro all looked dangerous in creating chances for themselves before the late drama unfolded.
The Reds head to Devon this weekend in seventh place – a place and point below their hosts. Weymouth are fifth – three points above the Reds – in the final play-off spot.
Banbury United then visit the Trico Stadium on Tuesday.