REDDITCH United head into Saturday’s exciting FA Trophy third qualifying round tie at local rivals Solihull Moors on the back of a midweek Birmingham Senior Cup exit at Conference North outfit Leamington, but having shown their ability to compete with sides from the tier above.
United boss Liam McDonald, who was this week putting the finishes to a deal to bring talented Stourport Swifts midfielder Calvin Dinsley to the Valley Stadium, has said his side will need to be at their best if they are to get the better of Moors, who are riding high in fifth place in Conference North.
The Reds, who moved into third place in the Southern League Premier Division thanks to Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Histon, will not be dispirited after pushing the Brakes all the way at the New Windmill on Tuesday before succumbing to a 4-2 defeat in the second round.
The visitors made a flying start as they took a fourth minute lead when the seemingly unstoppable Jermaine Hylton charged towards goal and saw his strike superbly saved by former Alvechurch keeper Liam Maher, only for Hylton to poke the ball home on the rebound.
Maher then made a superb save to prevent Dior Angus from making it 2-0 and the importance of the stop was proved in the 11th minute when Lee Chilton fed Danny Newton to neatly side-step a challenge and fire past Sam Hornby to level things up.
Maher made another good save down low to his left to keep Redditch out as they looked for an immediate response but instead it was Leamington who moved in front on 25 minutes.
Referee Grant Taylor awarded a somewhat dubious penalty after Jordan Cullinane-Liburd sent Matt Dodd stumbling as the two tore after a forward pass. Dodd stayed on his feet but the spot-kick was awarded and he calmly slotted home his fifth goal of the season to put the hosts in front.
A superbly timed challenge from Stuart Pierpoint halted a dangerous run in from the left by Hylton as the game continued to flow from end to end, but Redditch were level on 36 minutes when a free kick in a central position just outside the box was fired powerfully home through a gap in the defensive wall by in-form Ashley Sammons.
That was not the end of the first half scoring, however, as Leamington sneaked in front again in injury time thanks to skipper Stephan Morley who curled a fantastic long range free kick into the top corner.
Newton forced Hornby into another save early in the second half, while Maher pushed a shot around the post as Redditch searched for an equaliser.
The final word was Newton’s though as he charged in from the left to thrash a shot past Hornby which the keeper could only help into the net off the underside of the bar.
Three days earlier Redditch had made it 19 points from the last 21 available in the league as they convincingly defeated Histon at the Valley.
Centre back Euan Key twice forced Hornby into early saves before Jamie Spencer cut inside and fired a low strike against Denzel Gerrar’s post.
Nicholas Freeman then struck the post at the other end but it was the hosts who took a 33rd minute lead when Angus cleverly hurdled a challenge before firing a brilliant 30-yard left-footed strike into the net.
Redditch were now on top but they were concerned shortly before the interval when Spencer was left in a bad state on the ground with a head injury and the striker was later taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
United had a golden chance to make it 2-0 just a minute into the second half after George Carline was upended in the box by Key, but the usually reliable Sammons struck the outside of the post with his penalty.
However, the miss did not prove costly as McDonald’s side grabbed the crucial second goal in the 53rd minute when Sammons and Simeon Maye sent Angus scampering down the left and he centred for Hylton to finish calmly from 12 yards.
Redditch could and arguably should have added more goals before the end, but the outcome was not in doubt at this stage.
All attentions now turn to Saturday’s big FA Trophy game when two of the region’s in-form teams do battle at the Autotech Stadium.
Subject to any FA Trophy replays, the Reds will then face a vital league game on Wednesday when they head to second placed Corby Town, who are one point and place above United.
George Carline clears the danger for Redditch at Leamington on Tuesday. Picture by Sally Ellis. (s)