REDDITCH United’s players have been urged to channel the ‘frustration’ of the past week into motivation as they bid to climb back into the Southern League Premier Division play-off places.
The Reds had both centre back Jim Mutton and striker Jazz Luckie red-carded in a bad-tempered 1-0 defeat at King’s Lynn Town on Saturday – decisions which angered boss Liam McDonald – whose side were then left kicking their heels on Monday when yet another Valley Stadium fixture was postponed when a waterlogged pitch put paid to the visit of Dunstable Town.
However, after fine work from numerous people including groundsman Lee Birch and Julian Workman, as well as generous emergency repair work to dugouts and fencing from Adrian Clements and Bob Cox of AC Platinum, hopes are high the Reds will play a first home league game for four weeks against Chesham United on Saturday.
“We must stay focused now and keep our composure after the disappointment of Saturday,” said McDonald.
“We were the better team against King’s Lynn without ever really getting going. We certainly deserved at least a point out of the game and they should be very grateful to their keeper.
“The challenge now is for us to ensure we turn our frustration into motivation to play at the top of our game. We need to win a few games on the trot and restore maximum confidence.
“Things are still positive for us overall. We are prepared for the games in hand we have and are confident of a strong finish to the season.
“I know we are sixth at the moment but in reality we are better placed than that and it’s up to us to get back to winning ways and put the pressure on other teams.”
McDonald, whose side are due to visit Devon on Tuesday to face basement boys Bideford, was left bewildered by the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s clash in Norfolk which saw his side concede the decisive goal before being reduced to nine men.
Red cards woe
Shortly after the referee had limped off with a calf injury and been replaced by an assistant referee, the visitors were left seething by a turn of events which saw the match slip from their grasp.
McDonald felt his side were denied a clear free kick in the build-up to Lee Stevenson’s superb match-winning strike, which was shortly followed by a melee which ended with the newly-appointed referee dismissing Mutton, Luckie and Stevenson.
Mutton and Stevenson were involved in a coming together after a challenge but, whilst Stevenson escaped with a yellow card, Mutton saw red and was followed off the pitch within moments by Luckie, who the official had deemed to have thrown a punch.
“A yellow card for their guy and Jim (Mutton) would have sufficed but, regardless, it should have been the same punishment for both as neither did anything different to the other,” said McDonald.
“As it was, their guy was sent off anyway after receiving another yellow for something else and then Jazz (Luckie) is sent off for throwing a punch, but he hasn’t done so.
“I have watched the game back as we have them videoed and I will be appealing against both decisions because I feel we have a strong case.
“I was also annoyed to read criticism from their gaffer accusing us of being an over-physical side, because that is just not true. However, we must pull together now and ensures this galvanises us.”
If the suspensions stand, both Reds players will serve three-match bans, although they are available for this weekend’s encounter.
The red card drama capped a bad week for United, who were thrown out of the Birmingham Senior Cup for fielding an ineligible player during their 2-1 last 16 win over Conference North leaders Solihull Moors, who will instead now host Wolves in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Midfielder Rob Thompson-Brown appeared as a second half substitute for the Reds having already played for Stratford Town against Coventry City earlier in the competition.
“It’s disappointing, of course,” said McDonald. “However, it’s been a bit unsettled of late with the secretary having left and we’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“Some footballers have better memories of which games they’ve played in than others, it’s fair to say!”
THE REDS have added left-footed attacking midfielder Jack Hallahan to the ranks from West Brom.
Described by McDonald as a ‘talented and exciting prospect with a key role to play’, the Republic of Ireland youth player came on as a late substitute on Saturday.
Elsewhere, a Shropshire newspaper has reported AFC Telford United have missed out on signing Reds midfielder Jamey Osborne, adding the player was staying at the Valley Stadium until the end of the season.