IAN LONG is ready to hand summer signing Andy Nicol his first start as Alvechurch look to bounce back to goalscoring form against AFC Wulfrunians at Lye Meadow on Saturday.
After a 1-1 home draw with Stourport Swifts on Saturday, the Churchmen slipped nine points behind Midland League Premier Division leaders Westfields after a 2-0 defeat at the Herefordshire side on Wednesday.
Manager Long has not been unhappy with the performances but says they need to convert their chances, hence the call-up for Nicol, who has bagged more than 120 goals in Sunday football in the past two seasons.
The striker, who bagged eight goals for Sunday side Austin Ex-Apprenctices last weekend, came on as a substitute against Westfields and Long says he merits an opportunity.
“Andy has looked sharp and he covers the ground better than people think so he deserves his chance,” said Long.
“I thought we deserved something from the game against Westfields and in our last four games now, against Westfields, Stourport, Long Eaton and Highgate, I can’t be critical, apart from not scoring enough goals.
“We need to be a bit more clinical. We are getting good crosses into the box but nobody seems to be really dying to get the ball into the net.”
Alvechurch have added to their creativity by bringing in former Redditch, Kidderminster, Rushall and Stratford playmaker Michael McGrath, who has joined from Hednesford Town.
“Michael did really well on his debut against Westfields,” said Long. “He will bring a bit of creativity and a bit of balance with his left peg. He is on board for the rest of the season which is pleasing.”
The Churchmen will also have defender Luke Paskin and midfielder Tom Turton available to face Wulfs after work commitments ruled them out in midweek, but Jack Cresswell and Josh Sarmento are still away on holiday.
They will be back for Tuesday’s trip to Stourport, while Josh March and Zack Foster will have completed their bans to return at Walshes Meadow.
On Saturday, Alvechurch seemed on course for three points against Stourport after Paskin had created history by netting the Churchmen’s 900th goal in the Midland Alliance/Midland League.
Cresswell sent in a free kick on 71 minutes and Paskin headed home.
The hosts had been reduced to ten men on 35 minutes after full back Mike Wardle picked up a second booking and the referee was again at the centre of controversy when he awarded an 84th-minute penalty for Swifts’ Ben Maund to level.
On Tuesday, Alvechurch were again cursing their luck when a deflected free kick from Craig Jones found the net in the 37th minute.
A defensive slip then allowed Aidan Thomas to get free to score a second goal in the 59th minute as Westfields made it nine wins in nine league and cup matches.
“They are the side to beat,” said Long. “Maybe that will take a little bit of the pressure off us.
“We were probably favourites for the title before the season started but Westfields have beaten us and they have also beaten Sporting Khalsa, another of the sides expected to do well.”