<i>Redditch United 1 Alfreton Town 0</i>

The hyperbole was unintentional but, no matter the description from goalscorer Simon Hollis, the message about the importance of Redditch United's must-win victory was inescapable.

"The gaffer had said beforehand that it was like a 12-pointer," said the midfielder. "It was the biggest game of the season for us.

"We had to go out and win - and we did that."

Only in It's A Knockout have teams ever had the chance to double the points tally and there was no sign of giant trolls being dumped off rolling logs in vats of freezing water at The Valley.

But there was a feeling of optimism and good cheer to could have had Stuart Hall chortling. The Reds' recent trials and tribulations, off the pitch as well as on it, after a change of manager and chairman are being blown away like the galeforce breeze which rendered any slick play an irrelevance on Saturday.

The only statistic that mattered was that Hollis' sixth-minute instant finish against fellow strugglers Alfreton Town was good enough to give Redditch a first win in six matches and push them four places up the Nationwide North table.

The fight for survival is developing into a mini-league of seven teams and Redditch, having been third-from-bottom, now lie in 'top' spot. Not that manager Gary Whild will be relaxing just yet - two points separate five clubs while Redditch have played more games than their rivals.

Hollis, however, summed up the growing confidence. "We're positive we can get out of trouble," he stressed.

"Sometimes we haven't had the rub of the green, but now we are starting to pick up points. That's three games unbeaten. If we keep playing the way we are, we will definitely stay out of danger.

"We're not looking down - we're looking at mid-table."

There could certainly be no faulting the industry and effort in a determined, dogged display against an Alfreton side jointly managed by former Tamworth bosses Gary Mills and Darron Gee.

Reds centre-back Mark Creighton marshalled the backline superbly, making a series of vital challenges when danger threatened, while Carl Palmer was perpetual motion in midfield and man of the match Craig Wilding and strike partner Rory May deserve a new sponsor-ship deal with kitmakers Nike after working their socks off all afternoon.

Chances, though, were scarce and it was fitting that the only goal came from one of the best moves of the game. The Reds turned defence into attack with slick passing and when Palmer raced down the inside-right channel and whipped in a cross, Hollis finished with a sweetly-timed half-volley at the far post for his fifth goal of the season.

"It's a move we practice in training, getting the ball wide and attacking an area and it worked out beautifully," said Hollis.

Gee and Mills point to Alfreton's miserable goals-for record - theirs is the lowest in the league - for their woes but Redditch were thankful to escape on a few occasions. Creighton hooked Chris Howard's angled drive off the line and goalkeeper Richard Anstiss blocked Michael Rankine's near-post effort before the break and produced a superb, onehanded tip-over to deny debutant Howard again as another drive arrowed towards the top corner.

But the Reds could have breathed a lot easier if Richard Adams, making his debut as a substitute, had found a touch more power to his curling shot five minutes from time to beat Alfreton goal-keeper Simon Rayner. Still, one goal was enough. ..SUPL: