September 27th, 2016

Focus is on the here and now, not Hereford – Long

Updated: 5:40 pm, Mar 10, 2016

IAN LONG stressed Alvechurch cannot afford to be distracted by what will be the biggest match in generations as the countdown begins to a potential title decider against Hereford.

After talks with the police and council, the Churchmen have confirmed the Lye Meadow clash between the Midland League Premier Division’s top two on Easter Monday will be all-ticket, with a capacity of 1,500.

The Bulls, who are averaging around 3,000 at their Edgar Street HQ, will have the lion’s share of the tickets with 950, but Church hope their supporters will also turn out in droves.

It will be the biggest match at Alvechurch since the days of Alan Smith when the Churchmen were among non-league’s elite in the early 1980s and even dating back to their FA Cup and FA Amateur Cup glory days of the 1970s and 1960s.

However, manager Long insisted the priority was to focus on Saturday’s home game with Walsall Wood – when victory would put Alvechurch top of the table – and then Tuesday’s trip to Boldmere St Michaels.

“There’s already a buzz of excitement about the Hereford game and we’ve been working hard off the pitch to allow as many people as possible to see the match,” said Long.

“Everything will be planned and done professionally, with advice from the police and council, and first and foremost we’ve got to make sure people are safe and can enjoy the football.

“But we can’t think about Hereford for another few weeks. As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to ban all Hereford talk. There’s so much football before then.

“We’ve got a lot of tough games and every single one is crucial. All our focus is on Walsall Wood.

“We’ve got an opportunity to go to the top of the table on Saturday and we need to show we’re ready for the challenge.”

That challenge will include new signing James Spray, who has been recruited from Midland Premier rivals Lye Town and is set for a debut against Walsall Wood.

Alvechurch feared they had lost the battle to sign the former Wolves youngster but, after talks with Long, his number two Richard Colwell and chairman Richard Thorndike, Spray has put pen to paper.

“I think we’ve convinced James that joining Alvechurch is a great opportunity for him,” said Long. “He will give us something different to what we’ve got.

Extra quality

“He will give us a bit of extra quality which I think we’ve been lacking in recent weeks. He’ll give us a bit of composure in the final third.

“He is big, powerful and a scorer of spectacular goals as well. I can’t remember the last time we scored a goal from outside the box.”

Two close range finishes from Karl Edwards – both in stoppage time – proved enough to snatch a 2-0 victory at Brocton on Saturday.

It seemed set to be an afternoon of frustration as the Churchmen were denied by the woodwork three times. Connor Deards smashed a shot against the angle of the goal in the first half, before Josh March hit the post and an Edwards strike rattled the upright.

However, Edwards finally broke the deadlock by heading home a Chris Field cross for his first goal since December 12 and the veteran then collected a throw-in in the fifth minute of injury time to stab the ball past Badgers keeper Callum Barrett to seal the victory and move within one point of Hereford with a game in hand.

“It felt an even bigger victory for us because of the way it came about,” said Long. “To win it the way we did has given us a massive boost.”

Leigh Downing netted twice and Nick Wright was also on target as Church defeated Cradley Town 3-0 in a friendly on Tuesday.

Striker Nathaniel Waite is expected to be fit after injury to face Walsall Wood on Saturday but Deards is a fitness worry after picking up a knock at Brocton.

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