REDDITCH United manager Paul Smith admitted to an element of relief after his players ended a five-match run without a victory by picking up four much-needed points from two matches in their bid to secure their Southern Premier Central status.
Smith said the poor run of results which had seen the Reds take just one point and score one goal in five games had been a concern but deep down he knew his charges were capable of recapturing the kind of form which had propelled them into mid-table following his arrival.
Redditch cruised to a 4-1 home win over Needham Market on Saturday before securing a last-gasp 1-1 draw at Banbury United on Tuesday through a goal of the season contender from defender Rob Evans.
Smith revealed he had challenged the players after a poor run of form and they delivered for him.
“As a manager, I’d not been used to the type of run we were on and I took it personally. I spoke openly with the players, told them that defeats should hurt them as much as it does me,” said Smith.
“Their response was superb. The coaches delivered two fantastic training sessions in the week leading up to Needham Market and the players were well-prepared and eager to get a result on Saturday.”
Danico Johnson led the line on Saturday, linking up with strike partner Jack Storer and pacy winger Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham throughout the game. Johnson bagged two assists and capped off his performance with a goal, with Leachman-Whittingham (2) and Robbie Bunn also on the scoresheet.
The Reds had fallen behind to Joseph Marsden’s sixth-minute penalty but were level within a minute through Leachman-Whittingham. Bunn made it 2-1 just before the break and it was 4-1 by the 54th minute as the hosts impressed.
Smith said: “Danico works hard and never stops running. He’s been great since joining the club. His link-up play is superb and I was delighted he got his goal on Saturday.
“With Jack Storer now fit and playing, their partnership and chemistry is only going to improve.
“We have partnerships all over the pitch. Our centre-back pairing has been outstanding, while we’ve now bought in James Bowen, who has hit the ground running. He’s a left-sided full-back which gives us balance.”
The team was unchanged for Tuesday’s rearranged visit to Banbury United and the visitors put in a strong display once again, rewarded when Evans scored with a superbly-controlled 20-yard volley from Bunn’s 93rd-minute corner.
Smith said the changing room was “buzzing” afterwards but was not surprised Evans popped up with the goal.
He added: “Rob’s got excellent technique. He’s scored a few goals for us this season and this was one was obviously crucial. I know he and Robbie (Bunn) have spoken about the routine on the training pitch before, but it’s not one they practise often!”
Attention now turns to Saturday’s home league encounter with St Neots Town, which Smith described as a “six-pointer”, with the opportunity to stretch the gap between the club and the relegation zone to nine points.
He said: “They’re (St Neots) a youthful side. They’ve not been in great form but won last time out (1-0 against Barwell). Our playing surface is perfect for their game as well, so the key is for us to use our experience and put in another strong performance.”
Smith revealed midfielder George Washbourne has left the club but has a fully-fit squad of 20 players to choose from.