IAN LONG fears Alvechurch are suffering a hangover from last season’s title heartache after their stuttering start to the new campaign.
The Churchmen, last term’s Midland League Premier Division runners-up with a record points tally, are still searching for their first league win of 2016/17 after losing 1-0 at home to Lye Town on Tuesday, while their FA Cup campaign ended at Hereford on Saturday with a 4-2 defeat after they had led 2-0.
Manager Long says “the buck stops with me” – but he is baffled by such a lacklustre start.
“Possibly there’s a hangover from last season,” said Long. “There’s been a lot of expectations on us to do well this year, that’s one thing that’s changed.
“We also lost some players from last season, some characters, and we’ve not found our form at the moment.
“We’ve been disappointing, there’s no getting away from that. The one positive is everybody is beating everybody else.
“There’s only Westfields who have got a 100 per cent winning record so far, with three wins out of three, and I think it’s going to be the sort of season where eight, nine, ten clubs will be challenging for the title.”
Long and assistant Richard Colwell will be sitting down to consider making changes for the testing trip to Long Eaton United tomorrow (Saturday). Then, on Monday, the Churchmen make the short trip to Highgate United (3pm).
Despite the defeat to Lye and the FA Cup exit to Hereford, there have been positives.
Goals from Jack Cresswell and Josh Sarmento put the Churchmen 2-0 ahead at old foes, the Bulls, before some kamikaze defending allowed the hosts to win 4-2.
On Tuesday, Ben Billingham gave Lye a 20th-minute lead, before Alvechurch rallied after the break, with Josh March hitting the post as they went agonisingly close to levelling.
Long says his players must learn some tough lessons.
“Everybody in the squad has got to take their share of responsibility but the buck stops with me,” said Long. “We’ve not been good enough so far.
“We’ve got a couple of tough games coming up, against Long Eaton and Highgate, but a couple of wins at this stage of the season soon pushes you up the table.”
“On Saturday, we started well at Hereford and we were comfortable in the second half until they got their first goal, then we collapsed like a pack of cards.
“We knew they would come at us but after we conceded we needed to show a bit of character, a bit of leadership. But then we conceded three goals in four minutes. The players didn’t listen to our instructions.
“On Tuesday, we didn’t start with a good tempo and Lye definitely shaded the first half. We had a few words at half time and the lads responded positively. We totally dominated possession and territory and hit the post and could have come away with something.”
Wide player Sarmento will miss both Bank Holiday games after tweaking his knee ligaments against Hereford, while Alvechurch will also await fitness updates on James Spray (calf) and Cresswell (leg).
Ryan Winwood, however, will be available after holidays ruled him out of the last two fixtures.