IAN LONG says Alvechurch’s trip to Blackpool tomorrow (Saturday) will be just as important to foster team spirit as building fitness.
The Church visit North West Counties League side Squires Gate in their fifth pre-season friendly and they will be spending the weekend in the north-west resort.
The bulk of the squad will be involved, though summer signing Tom Turton, Mark Smith, Dave Bellis are on holiday, Jack Cresswell is unavailable and Paul Evans is ruled out with a hamstring injury. Keeper Charlie Price is also a fitness worry with a hip injury.
Long wants his squad to build on an unbeaten four-match run in warm-up games but Squires Gate will provide the toughest test so far.
“I will use the weekend as a bit of a team bonding exercise but I want to make sure we approach the game right,” said Long. “We’ve done OK so far but it will another step up to play a Step Five team in Squires Gate. They beat a Fleetwood Town team in midweek so I’m sure they will pose us a few problems. The most important thing is to keep improving our fitness and sharpness ready for the first game of the season on August 6.”
Alvechurch have claimed three wins and one draw so far in their friendly programme.
Aaron Lloyd (3) and fellow newcomer Andy Nicol (2) were among the scorers in the 7-0 win at Bromyard Town before a 0-0 draw with Cradley Town on a Brierley Hill school 3G pitch.
This week, Josh Sarmento hit the equaliser and then Nicol notched the winner in a 2-1 win at Lichfield City on Tuesday before Nicol and Sarmento were again on the score sheet, along with Andy Parsons and James Douglas, as Alvechurch won 4-1 at Tipton Town 24 hours later.
Both former Stourbridge, Cradley and Dudley Town forward Lloyd and prolific Sunday league marksman Nicol have shown plenty of promise though Long stressed they still need to work on their fitness.
The battle for places will intensify with Jordan Nadat having had his first run-out against Lichfield after picking up an ankle injury in training.
“Both Aaron and Andy have worked really hard but they haven’t quite got full match sharpness yet to last 90 minutes,” said Long.
“Aaron has struggled for fitness in the past but he is really putting in the effort. He realises it’s probably his last chance to really make a name for himself. If we can get a sharp Aaron Lloyd, we will have a very good player on our hands.
“Andy has done really well. His endurance work has been good but he needs the match sharpness. It’s a lot different from Sunday football but he has shown with his goals, especially against Lichfield and Tipton with his movement and his finishing, that he can be a real plus for us.”
After the weekend trip to Blackpool, Alvechurch play their first friendly at Lye Meadow when Northern Premier League Halesowen Town visit.
Then next Thursday they head to West Midlands Premier side Wolves Sporting before entertaining Sutton Coldfield Town next Saturday.