PAUL SMITH said he could not fault the attitude of his players in Saturday’s FA Trophy exit to Mickleover Sports and believes more wins are just around the corner if the Reds maintain the same levels of performance and determination.
Evan Garnett netted a 93rd-minute winner in the dying seconds of the first qualifying round tie for the Northern League Premier hosts and Smith revealed there was huge disappointment in the visiting dressing room at full-time.
However, rather than dwell on the 1-0 loss which ended a run of four successive wins in all competitions, Smith and his players are determined to take out their frustrations on Saturday’s Southern Premier Central visitors Banbury United.
“I’m disappointed by the Trophy exit but not as much as the players, for whom it was really tough to take after putting in such a great effort against a tough opponent,” said Smith.
“The boys put lots of endeavour into that game and certainly did themselves justice. It was just unfortunate for us that our only real defensive mistake throughout the match was punished in the dying seconds.
“Both teams had chances, with Reece (Francis) pulling off a couple of good saves for us in the second half when they got on top, whilst we missed a couple of sitters and perhaps could have had a penalty or two.
“However, the conditions were tricky, especially with the howling wind, and I couldn’t fault the effort the lads put in. They gave everything and it’s about picking them up now to maintain that level of performance and more victories will follow.
“We were disappointed not to have a midweek fixture to bounce back straight away, but we’ve had two excellent training sessions and have done our homework on Banbury and are determined to bag the three points.”
Meanwhile, forward Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham has signed a new contract with the Reds.
The deal secures his future at the TRICO Stadium for the rest of the season, with an option to extend his deal for the 2019/20 campaign.
Leachman-Whittingham has impressed since arriving in the summer, with his pace, trickery and dribbling all key attributes to the wideman’s play.
Smith is delighted with the news the 21-year-old has put pen to paper.
“When I arrived, I challenged Shaquille to show his undoubted talents on a consistent basis and I have been thrilled with his reaction. He’s been brilliant,” added Smith.
“He has phenomenal talent and it is no wonder other clubs have been loitering around and hunting for his signature, so I am delighted he has pledged his future to the club and he can see what we’re all striving to achieve.
“I would like to thank the chairman for backing me. It is testament to the relationship I have with him and the ambition he has that we were able to secure this deal.”
Leachman-Whittingham said: “I’m buzzing to have signed a contract. The new gaffer has shown huge belief in me and made me get my head down.
“I can’t wait to keep learning from him and get better and better. I am loving my football at Redditch. It’s a great club and perfect for my development right now.”
The Reds, for whom victory on Saturday could lift them out of the drop zone, return to cup action on Tuesday with a League Challenge Cup second round tie at league rivals Stratford Town.
United are hoping the recent injury suffered by versatile Lewis Wright is not serious and they could also welcome defender Nyeko Sinclair back into the fold against Banbury.