September 25th, 2016

Long expects twists and turns after Hereford crunch clash

IT WILL be the biggest game at Lye Meadow in two generations, but Alvechurch versus Hereford will NOT be a title decider, says Ian Long.

After Hereford confirmed they had sold all of their 900 tickets for Easter Monday’s first versus second Midland League Premier Division showdown, the Churchmen also expect the final few tickets of their 600 tally to be snapped up to create the biggest crowd at Lye Meadow since the 1980s.

While manager Long says Monday’s fixture should be a fantastic occasion, he stressed the immediate priority was to ensure Alvechurch complete a third win in a row when they entertain Heanor Town on Saturday.

He said it was vital they maintain their five-point lead to prepare to face FA Vase finalists Hereford, who tackle Bardon Hill on Saturday and have two games in hand.

“It’s a massive weekend coming up,” said Long. “Of course, there’s a lot of attention on the Hereford game but you can only take one game at a time and we’ve got to concentrate fully on Heanor. It’s a game we need to win.

“After that, we can think about Hereford. Inevitably, there’s a lot of excitement building up to Monday. It is important, of course it is, but I don’t think it’s a winner-takes-all game. Whatever happens, there’s still going to be a lot of football to be played.

“Psychologically, the result could have an impact, but both ourselves and Hereford know there will be another eight games for us and ten for them. A lot can still happen.”

Long, though, feels much more content about Alvechurch’s form going into the double-header following Saturday’s 4-0 win at AFC Wulfrunians and then Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory against visitors Rocester.

Recent signing James Spray took his tally to four goals in as many games since joining from Lye Town to provide much-needed inspiration.

He netted one goal against Wulfs and then scored two, including a wonderful 25-yarder, against Rocester as three goals in the final six minutes finally saw off the visitors.

“James has given us a different dimension,” said Long. “When we’ve needed something extra, he has delivered. He scored a cracking goal on Tuesday and then Jordan Nadat got two fantastic strikes.

“I was pretty low after we lost to Boldmere last week but maybe that result has been the best thing to happen. It has made us realise we have to kick on again. You can’t take anything for granted, you have to do the work and we’ve worked hard in training.

“The reward has come in the two matches with convincing wins. Our play has been a lot better, we’ve created chances, we’ve pressed the ball better and we’ve scored some excellent goals.”

That certainly was the case on Tuesday, although Alvechurch squandered a series of chances before ending strongly against a resilient Rocester.

The breakthrough finally came on 66 minutes when Spray fired home from 20 yards from Nadat’s pass, only for Troy Carty to equalise with the Romans’ only attack on 84 minutes.

However, two minutes later Spray smashed home after taking a long pass in his stride and then Nadat’s flick and 40-yard run made it 3-1 with a scintillating finish. The striker then added his second, shooting on the turn from Zac Foster’s pass.

On Saturday, it had been far less nerve-wracking after two goals in the first 15 minutes put the Churchmen in control against Wulfs.

Josh March fired home from a Leigh Downing pass and Nadat drilled the ball into the net after March’s good work to give the visitors the perfect start.

Spray side-footed a third on 58 minutes from a Chris Field cross and Karl Edwards made it 4-0 five minutes from time by tapping home from Connor Deards’ cross.

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