REDDITCH United boss Paul Smith hailed the application and workrate of his players following the CSS League Cup victory over Halesowen Town on Tuesday and urged them to show the same performance levels against Tamworth on Saturday.
The Reds visit the Lambs in their third consecutive Southern League Premier Central away game looking for Smith’s first league victory and the boss believes confidence in the squad is growing following the 2-1 home victory in midweek.
Dave Reynolds put the hosts ahead on 37 minutes, but James Roberts levelled for the visitors on 85 minutes, only for Robbie Bunn to net the winner in the second minute of injury time.
“I was chuffed for the players because they’ve worked hard and bought into what my staff and I are trying to do here at the club. Fitness levels have improved greatly, so to score as late as we did was particularly satisfying,” said Smith.
“The belief is there and, with the additions we’ve made, the group is in a good place at the moment. I am hopeful the commitment and performance levels will be replicated on Saturday, as it’s another tough game for us.”
Smith said Tamworth, now managed by former Red Andy Morrell, would be “desperate for the win” to kick-start their season and would be difficult opponents due to the number of new signings they have made and the backing of the home faithful.
However, this week the Reds made two more signings of their own – goalkeeper Reece Francis and defender Andy Parsons – and Smith believes he is “very close” to having the settled squad he wants.
Francis is a player Smith knows well from his time at Bromsgrove Sporting and is delighted at the prospect of having the keeper between the sticks at the TRICO Stadium.
“He was my number one, so he is a player I hold in high regard and trust. He ticks all the boxes and I know he will be an asset for us,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, Parsons, who was instrumental in helping Alvechurch achieve successive promotions, has been described by Smith as a “no-nonsense” central defender and a “quality addition”.
Smith added: “It is no secret I have been looking to strengthen us defensively. With the recent additions of Ed Wagner, Rob Evans and now Andy Parsons, we now have a solid defensive base to build from.
“It’s been clear from the start of my tenure that I have wanted to bring in players and, while many have left also, I believe we have brought in some quality additions.
“It’s vital to have a good squad of 17 or 18 players, as games come thick and fast and players who aren’t in the starting line-up on Saturday must be prepared for either a midweek game or the following Saturday.
“The players know everyone will be utilised throughout the season and they’ve bought into that which is vital for squad harmony.”
One player that Smith is keen to tie down to a longer deal at the club is centre-back Wagner, who initially joined the club on loan from Kidderminster Harriers. The boss confirmed positive talks had taken place between all parties and an extension of the loan was “likely”.
On Wagner, Smith said: “He’s been colossus for us. At a time when the defence was leaking goals, he came in and steadied things.
“He’s been fantastic and exactly what we needed. He demonstrated his qualities during a man of the match performance against Halesowen.”
Wagner, Francis and Parsons will all be available to face Tamworth on Saturday, as will centre-back Evans after overcoming his injury, but keeper Ben Pierce is out after breaking a bone in his foot on Tuesday night and defender Nyeko Sinclair is a major doubt after sustaining a dead leg in the same fixture.
There is some welcome news for Tim Fishwick as the long-term absentee has now returned to training, but Saturday’s game has come too early for the defender.
The Reds are back at home on Tuesday when they host Rushall Olympic, managed by former United boss Liam McDonald.