REDDITCH United’s Southern Premier Central survival was confirmed despite a frustrating 1-0 defeat at St Ives Town in Cambridgeshire on Saturday.
Paul Smith’s side were edged out by Andrew Osei-Bonsu’s 54th-minute strike but St Neots Town’s late 3-2 defeat at Rushall Olympic ensured the 18th-placed Reds remain ten points clear of the drop zone with just three matches now remaining.
Defeat was harsh on United who have been in much-improved form in the closing stages of the campaign but there were some positives for Smith and his players to take into the Easter fixtures, which bring the visit of Hitchin Town to the Trico on Saturday before a trip to relegated Halesowen Town on Monday (3pm). The season ends at home to Leiston on April 27.
Victory on Saturday would lift Redditch above Hitchin and maintain their hopes of climbing several places during the campaign’s finale.
Smith said: “Saturday’s result was not the way we wanted to do it, but our objective of staying up has been achieved.
“Safety and Southern League football is guaranteed for next season and my staff and players deserve huge credit. It’s been a great effort.”
Certainly, United gave further evidence of the progress made under Smith as they took the game to St Ives throughout, only to be denied by a combination of wasteful finishing and the exploits of 18-year-old debutant keeper Shay Griffiths.
Danico Johnson was almost in on goal early on for United, but solid defending from Owen Wallis kept the striker at bay, before Griffiths made two fine saves in the space of a minute to keep out Robbie Bunn’s thumping 25-yard drive and Josh Hawker’s snap-shot from just inside the box, from which the ball was parried on to the post by the keeper before being cleared.
Just before the half hour mark Richard Batchelor’s 20-yard strike was also thwarted by Griffiths diving to his right and moments later there was another let-off for St Ives when Griffiths came racing from his goal to clear the ball from the onrushing Bunn.
The players collided just inside the box and many – certainly the visiting players – felt Bunn had won the race to the ball, but the decision went against the midfielder and Griffiths was spared conceding a penalty and receiving a red card.
St Ives improved after the break and Robbie Parker curled a shot inches past the post in the opening minutes before what proved to be the winner arrived when Osei-Bonsu’s flashing strike from just inside the right-hand side of the box was deflected off the luckless Hawker and beyond Reece Francis in the Redditch goal.
On the hour mark St Ives’ Morgan Penfold had an effort chalked off for offside before being denied a tap-in soon afterwards by Lewis Wright’s intervention.
The introductions midway through the half of Leam Howards and Harry Franklin injected more life into United but Franklin could not keep his header down under pressure and defender Andy Parsons later fired wide from a tight angle as the Reds ran out of steam and went home empty-handed.