IAN LONG will put friendship on hold for 90 minutes tomorrow night (Thursday) to plot Alvechurch’s push to reach a cup final at Molineux.
Church boss Long will find close pal Ian Rowe in the opposite dugout when Alvechurch face league rivals Sporting Khalsa in the semi-final of the JW Hunt Cup at AFC Wulfrunians.
Both clubs have had memorable seasons – Church setting a record points total to finish Midland League Premier Division runners-up to Hereford and winning the Worcestershire Senior Urn and Khalsa grabbing the headlines with their FA Cup exploits before ending the season third in the table.
Both clubs will now want to finish the campaign with a trip to the home of Wolves next Wednesday.
Long has had the edge in the head-to-heads so far, with Church winning both league encounters in the past month and has his sights on a hat-trick.
“We’re good friends and we talk to each other most days,” said Long. “But he hasn’t managed to beat me yet – and hopefully that will continue.
“He even brought in a few players – Kristian Green from Stourbridge, Josh McKenzie from Rushall and Curtis Tilt from Telford – for our last league game because those lads’ clubs had finished their season. I keep calling him ‘Ringer Rowe’ but he gives me as much stick as I give him. It’s good banter.
“We’re like-minded, we’re both very loud on the touchline and we both love winning. With the chance to play at Molineux, there’s an even bigger incentive this time.”
Alvechurch booked their semi-final place by winning 1-0 at Heath Hayes on Saturday, with Jordan Nadat bagging the first half winner.
It was a much-changed side, due to unavailabilities and injury, but Nick Wright, Mark Smith and Dave Bellis should be available.
James Spray and Matt Sargeant are both cup-tied, while Leigh Downing and Ryan Winwood remain sidelined. Jack Cresswell faces a fitness test on a hamstring niggle.
Long and the bulk of the players have helped Tividale win the JW Hunt Cup for the last two seasons and he would love the chance for another trip to Molineux.
“It would be nice to finish the season on a high after we had the disappointment of not winning the title,” he said.
“We’ve already got one trophy in the bag and, while the Senior Urn and the JW Hunt Cup were probably down the list of priorities at the start of the season, it helps create that winning mentality.
“To play at a pro ground, in front of a good crowd, and to win a trophy would be a great way to end the season.”
A single goal margin did not reflect Alvechurch’s dominance against Midland League Division One hosts Heath Hayes on Saturday.
Nadat pounced on a long free kick to slot home the winner on 28 minutes.
The Churchmen had plenty of other chances to extend the advantage but Josh March hit the crossbar and Nadat was also denied by the post.
Nathan Waite headed wide and Connor Deards had an effort deflected wide as the visitors pushed forward, but Long was equally pleased with the clean sheet to seal their semi-final place.
“It was probably the most one-sided 1-0 games I’ve seen but when there’s only a goal in it you’re anxious,” he added.