REDDITCH United boss Paul Smith hailed the performances of new recruits Jordan Stoddart and Josh Hawker after his side secured a crucial 1-0 victory at Royston Town on Saturday.
The hosts went into the match with slim hopes of making the Southern Premier Central play-offs but these were all but extinguished after Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham bagged a dramatic 94th-minute winner.
Leachman-Whittingham said of his goal: “The feeling to score a last-minute goal to win the game is the best feeling ever. I couldn’t even do my celebration – I was too gassed – but the boys worked hard and it was a well deserved three points.”
The win lifted the Reds into 17th place – three places and nine points ahead of the drop zone with eight matches remaining – starting with Saturday’s visit to second-placed Stourbridge.
“The lads were fantastic. They stuck to the game plan brilliantly and the defending throughout the team was top drawer,” said Smith.
“Jordan Stoddart was immense against their big striker and then Shaquille was clinical with the chance at the end.
“We were big, strong and disciplined, as we had to be to come here and win, and Josh Hawker was excellent in the middle of the park in his first game for a while.
“That’s the third game in a row now in which we’ve scored a goal in injury time to win us points. Those extra four points are crucial and a testament to the commitment the boys are showing. They never know when to give up.”
The challenge now is for the Reds to maintain their momentum as the trip to Stourbridge is followed by the visit of Tamworth and then a clash at play-off hopefuls Coalville Town.
Smith added: “We are into the final fifth of the season and there’s work to do still.
“It will be a stern test at Stourbridge against a side still harbouring title ambitions. They are organised, have been together a long time and are a great club, but we’ll go there and give it our very best shot.
“Confidence is high. I ask a lot of the players and get on their backs so it’s important and only fair that I heap praise on them at times like this.”