Paul Smith is urging his players to “keep their feet on the ground” after notching up their fourth straight win in all competitions against Rugby Town in the Birmingham Senior Challenge Cup on Tuesday night.
While delighted with the performance and result, especially the clean sheet, at the full-time whistle, Smith is aware the 2-0 victory is just another step in the right direction:
“It was a commanding and comfortable performance. From the previous tie against Rugby Town in the FA Cup, it just goes to show how far we have come as a football club and that we are definitely heading in the right direction.
“We are further ahead of where I thought we would be in terms of consistent performances and results, and we are all loving the buzz and positivity around The TRICO at the moment, but we are still in the relegation zone, so we need to stay focussed and keep working hard.”
Max Loveridge and Michael Nelson got themselves on the scoresheet against The Valley – that is three goals in three games for the in-form Nelson – with two fine finishes, and The Reds demonstrated their dominance with 18 shots in comparison to their opponents’ eight.
The stingy defence has earned plaudits from Smith, who identified the backline as the one of key areas in need of improvement when appointed in September:
“It was no secret that I felt we needed to strengthen our backline when my staff and I came in, and I couldn’t be happier with the partnership of Rob Evans and Andy Parsons. On Tuesday, they were colossal for us in snuffing out danger; they are forming a commanding partnership and are leaders for others to follow.”
Another player that has caught the manager’s eye is Lewis Wright; the versatility player made his second debut for the club against The Valley after Smith secured his signature following his release from Tamworth; however, in what was the only sour note on Tuesday night, Wright limped off with a calf problem.
Smith said: “Lewis signing is a smart piece of business for us. I have been looking for a player that is adaptable and can play in positions across the defence and midfield, and he certainly fits the bill. It’s a shame that he’s picked up an injury and I hope it’s not serious, but he definitely won’t be available for this Saturday’s clash with Mickleover.”
The Reds visit The Don Amott Arena on Saturday (3pm KO) to face Evo-Stik Northern Premier League outfit, Mickleover Sports, in the first qualifying round of The FA Trophy. Smith shared his thoughts on what challenges The Sports present his side:
“They are a big, strong outfit with players boasting years of experience; however, I think we are now at the stage where we can stop worrying about others and let the opposition worry about us. It is crucial that we look after ourselves and play to the level I know we are capable of – do that and we’ll give ourselves a great chance of a victory.”
Smith dismissed suggestions of making wholesale changes to his side following Tuesday night’s game and a tough run of fixtures coming up, but he admitted he will rely on each player throughout the rest of the season: “It doesn’t matter what competition it is, I want to win every game and players that play well will keep their shirt – results and performances will justify selection.
“That said, we could end up playing over 60 games this season, so every member of the squad will be needed. It is up to the those that aren’t in the side or squad to stay mentally strong, work hard and take their opportunity when it comes. I want a squad of equal ability, which means that when I make changes, those players can come straight in and do a job.”
Updated 09:41 - 26 Oct 2018 by Tom Henman