IAN LONG says pipping favourites Hereford to win the title with Alvechurch would be the greatest achievement of his footballing career.
Not that the Churchmen are expecting anything other than a no-holds-barred scrap to the line for the Midland League Premier Division crown, nor that the Lye Meadow boss believes it is simply a two-horse race.
However, Long says the chance to upset the Bulls in what has been a David versus Goliath battle in terms of resources would make it his most memorable season.
The odds on Alvechurch shortened after a somersaulting midweek of results as a home defeat for Hereford against Highgate and a last-gasp 2-2 draw for the Churchmen at ten-man Stourport left Long’s men five points behind Hereford with three games in hand.
Long, who won the title with Tividale two seasons ago, said: “I’ve said before that there will be twists and turn before the season ends and Tuesday proved it.
“Nobody would have expected Hereford to lose at home, especially after reaching the FA Vase semi-finals, but it was a missed opportunity for us after we drew against a Stourport team who had to play with ten men.
“That’s football. It’s crazy at times. We’ve still got 17 league games to play, that’s 51 points, so we’re a long way from the real nitty-gritty of the season.
“We’re only just past halfway and there’s so much football to play. I certainly wouldn’t write off Heanor or Sporting Khalsa either and, of course, Hereford have had a fantastic season.
“I don’t think Hereford will drop too many points but if we win those remaining 17 games we will be champions and deserved champions. That would be my biggest achievement. Given the size and stature of Hereford, it would be a fantastic effort if we can pip them to the title.”
Long stressed, however, Alvechurch’s only focus is on their own performances and they need to keep building the momentum as they prepare for three away games in a row.
They head to Long Eaton United on Saturday, then visit Quorn on Tuesday and travel to Brocton on March 5.
“All we can do is concentrate on what we are doing,” said Long.
“I thought we were back to our best against Loughborough but we were sloppy in possession against Stourport. That’s not good enough but we’ve got the quality in the squad to respond.”
Long praised recent signing Nathan Waite, who netted in the 4-1 home win against Loughborough and Stourport, to take his tally to three in two games.
“He could have had a few more because he had three cleared off the line on Tuesday,” said Long.
After Sam Williams opened the scoring after 14 minutes with a header on Saturday, Waite doubled the lead with a low shot three minutes later.
With Loughborough reduced to ten men after Josh Hill’s red card ten minutes before half time, the Churchmen extended their advantage in the second period.
Waite slammed home the rebound after Jordan Nadat’s shot had been parried on 51 minutes and Nick Wright drilled home a fourth on 83 minutes before James Winchester replied.
On Tuesday, Waite struck the first Alvechurch goal on 42 minutes from a flicked on corner.
Moments earlier Swifts had seen Reece Wager dismissed for two bookings but the hosts turned the game on its head with quickfire goals from Reece Shilvock and Joe Phillips to lead 2-1 after 78 minutes.
Despite attack after attack, including Waite having two efforts cleared off the line, Alvechurch had to wait until the 89th minute for Danny Ashton to equalise.