IT is a clash of the titans between the two best teams in the division, but Ian Long insists Alvechurch’s match of the day will not decide the Midland League Premier Division title race.
First will face second on Saturday when Hereford – with 27 wins in a row – host Alvechurch – with 14 wins from 15 matches – in front of what is expected to be a 4,000 crowd at Edgar Street.
Manager Long said: “People are naturally talking up the game because it’s first versus second and I was asked if it was a title decider. Not in January.
“It’s way too early. We’ve still got 23 league games to play. There are still a lot of good teams in the league and it’s disrespectful to the likes of Heanor, Sporting Khalsa, AFC Wulfrunians, Highgate and Lye who are all challenging and will have a big say in whatever happens.
“There is the psychological side. If they win comfortably, it could be a negative for us. If we win, it gives us a lot of momentum, but there’s still half the season to play.”
Long expects to have a full squad available for the trip to Edgar Street, with Alvechurch set to take 200 fans to Hereford.
He admits he has a starting XI in mind but he knows he is bound to upset some players.
“I’ve got 19 players available so that means three will not even make the squad. Then there’s five on the bench and two won’t get on. They all deserve to play.
“The most important thing is that we play our game. We know their strengths and have hopefully spotted some weaknesses but we will go with a game plan which has been successful this season.
“I never go out to play for a draw. We’ll go for it – we won’t sit back.”
Patience proved a virtue on Saturday when a late goal from Mike Wardle sealed a 1-0 win against visitors Stourport Swifts.
Long made six changes to the team which had bowed out of the FA Vase at Cleethorpes but, despite creating chance after chance, they had to wait until the 79th minute to get a goal.
Jack Cresswell made the break into the Swifts danger area and, although Dave Bellis mishit his shot, substitute Wardle back-heeled the ball past the keeper and defender to score.
Stourport had defended in numbers but the Churchmen had the better of the opportunities, only for Jordan Nadat and Connor Deards to fire off target and Cresswell to have a good effort saved.