PAUL SMITH believes Redditch United have the quality and fighting spirit to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.
The Reds boss insisted there were positives to build on, despite slipping to a third defeat in four matches in going down 4-1 to title favourites Kettering Town last Saturday at the Trico Stadium.
The result left Redditch 17th in Southern Premier Central, five points above the drop zone.
It does not get any easier for the Reds when they travel to fourth-placed King’s Lynn Town on Saturday but Smith will relish the challenge.
Having taken over when the club was in the relegation zone, he always understood it would be a challenge with ups and downs along the way, but he is confident the Reds will continue to improve.
“When we came through the door, we were in a world of bother,” said Smith. “We’ve taken big strides forward to put ourselves in a position to keep pushing upwards.
“We’re still in our infancy as a side. We’re in a battle, we know that, but I’ve got a good group here. We’ll keep working and improving and I’m sure we will be fine.
“It’s going to be interesting in the final 13 games of the season. Going to King’s Lynn will be another tough game but then we’ve got games against the teams around us.”
Smith had no complaints the Reds has been beaten by the better side last weekend after Kettering produced a devastating display of finishing.
The visitors had led 2-0 at half-time, with Lindon Meikle gliding past two ineffectual challenges to steer home a cracking 25-yarder after 14 minutes and then Rhys Hoenes drilling a low shot into the net after Dan Holman had dispossessed Jamie Ashmore.
The manner of both goals infuriated Smith but his half-time switch of formation, bringing on Leam Howards to partner Danico Johnson, and introducing Harry Franklin into midfield, made the Reds much more of a threat.
When they pulled a goal back through Johnson’s blistering strike from the edge of the area on 61 minutes, it was game on and Michael McGrath fired a free kick inches wide as they sought an equaliser.
However, Kettering regained their two-goal lead after Holman collected a long punt forward and Hoenes added his second in the final moments from another swift counter-attack.
For the Reds, midfielder McGrath showed he will be a real asset after signing from Bromsgrove Sporting, while Johnson grabbed his first goal since returning from Rugby Town – ending the team’s three-match scoreless run.
“We were beaten by the better side,” said Smith. “But the first two goals were two absolute calamaties from a defensive point of view. You can’t give a side with the quality Kettering have got a two-goal start.
“After the changes we made at half-time, we had a really good 20-minute spell, but from a route one ball we conceded a third and that knocked the stuffing out of us. The bottom line is they are a good side. It’s not by luck they are top of the table.
“We’ve been on a poor run but we’ve got to bounce back. We’ve shown we can match the leaders for a good spell so we’ve got to build on those positives.”
Striker Jack Storer will again be sidelined for the trip to King’s Lynn on Saturday as he recovers from a bruised knee but Smith is hoping to see him back in action for the next home match against Needham Market a week on Saturday.