REDDITCH United needed a penalty to see off bottom-of-the-table Berkhamsted in a narrow 1-0 victory at the Valley Stadium.

The second-placed Reds remain in a strong position near the top, two points behind leaders Needham Market but now four in front of Mickleover in Southern League Premier Central.

But they were grateful to the weekend performance of Johnny Johnston who won and scored the all-important penalty and claimed the player-of-the-match award for his relentless running.

In front of 417 fans, United did not produce a vintage display but the clean sheet proved crucial ahead of a weekend off before a big match at home to Mickleover on Saturday, March 2.

A few faces returned from injury with Callum Rowe starting alongside Gift Mussa and club captain Reece Flanagan made the bench.

Keeper Adam Harrison was forced into the first save on 16 minutes after a quiet start to the encounter.

But the crucial goal arrived in the 27th minute when Johnston calmly slotted in a penalty after he was fouled when running onto an Alex Cameron flick-on.

The first half was largely forgettable for the Reds though and an early Berkhamsted effort in the second period was fired straight at Harrison.

Soon after, Johnston shot wide following a fine run from Rowe and then on 66 minutes the visitors scrambled away a Jack Concannon corner from under the bar.

The Reds left it late to produce one of their best moves 11 minutes from time involving sub Musa Ceesay and Johnston but Cameron could not quite adjust his feet to find the net.

A Ryan Wollacott header was ruled out for offside but it mattered not as the Reds claimed all three points.

Meanwhile, league rivals and neighbours Alvechurch enjoyed a thrilling 4-3 win over high-flying Stamford at Lye Meadow to go six games unbeaten in all competitions.

Church moved up to 13th in the table in front of a crowd of 240 with Dylan Hadley putting the hosts ahead on 15 minutes.

DJ Sturridge made it two with his first goal for the club just before half-time and Jaanai Gordon added a third four minutes after the break.

Lee Shaw and Robert Morgan produced two quick replies inside a minute soon after.

But Nick Clayton-Phillips put Church 4-2 ahead three minutes from time with Tom Siddons' late strike not enough to deny them.

Church visit mid-table Leiston on Saturday (3pm).