LIAM McDonald heaped praise on his Redditch United team after watching them take their Southern League Premier Division points tally to 13 from five matches by collecting four points from games against much-fancied Chesham United and St Neots Town.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Valley Stadium against Chesham was followed by a 2-0 victory over St Neots on home soil on Monday, which lifted the Reds into fourth place and manager McDonald was delighted by the progress he continues to see from his side.
Redditch surrendered a 2-0 half time lead – given to them by goals from defender Dan Scarr and midfielder Liam Spink – on Saturday, but did not make the same mistake again two days later as Simeon Maye’s early strike and a late Jermaine Hylton effort ensured they made it ten points from a possible 12 against Chesham and St Neots, who are both expected to challenge for promotion this season.
McDonald said: “I am saying this a lot lately but I cannot fault the lads at all. We were outstanding for an hour on Saturday but let the lead slip and it felt like a defeat afterwards. I think their recent efforts, the amount of work they’ve put into games scoring so many goals, took their toll perhaps.
“However, all you can ask is to learn from it and try and work on your game management and I was confident we’d finish the job if we got ourselves into a winning position against St Neots and thankfully that’s exactly what we did.
“Once again it was a team effort and I must praise the defence who often get overlooked here because of the type of football we play, which does leave us open at times and vulnerable to conceding goals which are not always the fault of the defenders alone.
“This is the best defensive unit I have had during my time at the club. Sam Hornby has been excellent in goal for us, Dan Scarr and Jim Mutton have built up a great understanding, Jordan Cullinane-Liburd has come in and done a great job at left back and I haven’t seen a better right back in the division than Jordan Jones.
“We have Calum Flanagan back available for Saturday (FA Trophy first qualifying round tie at Corby Town) and that’s a big boost for us too.”
McDonald was particularly impressed by how his team stood up to the physical test posed by the then second placed St Neots, who have lost just three times in 18 league games this season – twice against Redditch.
“I had spoken to the players about game management and different challenges they would face and St Neots were physical. Even the team second placed in the table wasn’t prepared to go toe-to-toe with us in respect of getting the ball down and playing, which shows you what teams think they have to do to beat us now,” said McDonald.
“They tried to stop us playing but our pace, tempo and pressing was too much for them. We had Liam Spink and Simeon Maye playing like terriers in that midfield, but with the ability to match it as well, and their gaffer said to afterwards that we made it impossible for them to win that match. That’s a great thing to hear an opposition manager say about your team and I am proud.
“It’s all about putting in a collective performance as a team and showing a desire to work hard. The players have bought into that philosophy because I have dangled the carrot to them. They know I’ll let them play the expansive game they want to play if the work-rate is their to match it, and to be fair to the lads it is.”
Attentions now turn to a challenging FA Trophy tie at Corby on Saturday and McDonald is relishing the prospect.
He added: “It’s just about the hardest tie we could have had at this stage of the competition, away to the team second in our league at the highest tier of teams in the competition at this point, but we’ll be going there to win.
“We’ll be looking to extend our unbeaten run to seven matches and, if we can do that, then we know at the very least we’ll have them back at the Valley on Monday night for another crack at them.
“Dior Angus (winger) has come in and made an impact for us. He made a goal on Saturday and is getting fitter all the time, so the game Corby game continues the baptism of fire for him as well.
“There is a feel-good factor about the place at the moment, attendances are on the up, and everyone is keen for this momentum to continue.”
Should the Reds’ FA Trophy tie not require a replay, then Hungerford Town will visit the Valley in a league game on Monday.