IAN LONG has warned his Alvechurch players to raise their game – or miss out on any chance of success this season.
The Churchmen’s interest in the Polymac Packaging League Cup ended in a 3-1 last 16 defeat at title rivals Hereford on Tuesday and, while promotion remains the biggest priority, manager Long admits his side are struggling for form.
They have won only once in the last six, including exits in the FA Vase and League Cup, and their free-flowing, goal-laden play has stuttered.
They can still overtake the Bulls, who are 11 points ahead in the Midland League Premier Division but have played four more games, but they head to bogey side Quorn on Saturday looking to prove they have got what it takes to be championship contenders.
“The last six games have generally been frustrating and I want a response from the players. I need everybody to be playing at the top of their game,” said Long.
“Our form hasn’t been good enough. OK, we have been patchy in terms of getting a run of games because of the weather, and we are not as fit as we should be because we haven’t been playing.
“I’ve got confidence in the squad but at the moment some players just aren’t producing. They are nice lads, all of them, and they’ve done well for me at Tividale and some as far back as Tipton, but I can only stay loyal for so long, otherwise I have to think are they still good enough?”
He added: “In the last five games, our record has been one win, two draws and two defeats. That’s not championship form, that’s mid-table form.
After Saturday’s home match against Brocton was postponed, Long made seven changes to the side which had played Hereford in the league ten days previously and they started brightly.
Andy Parsons gave them the lead from Karl Edwards’ cross just before half time, but Joe Tumelty made it 1-1 moments later.
A James Pilling goal (55 minutes) and Mike Symons penalty (86 mins) sent the Bulls into the quarter-finals against Highgate United.
“I thought we were the better side in the first half and it might have been a different game if we had gone in 1-0 up,” added Long. “But after we conceded we lost our way.
“That said, we had another goal where the ball was a foot over the line that wasn’t given and their penalty was, from my view, an old-fashioned shoulder to shoulder.
“The big refereeing decisions didn’t go our way and when you’re away at Hereford you need that to happen.”
New signing Nathaniel Waite, recruited from Halesowen Town, played 20 minutes as a substitute, but he needs some more fitness work.
Former Tamworth and Kidderminster forward Nick Wright is expected to be back fit to face Quorn as Alvechurch look to end their hoodoo against the Leicestershire side. The sides drew 1-1 at Lye Meadow 12 days previously and Quorn have, amazingly, not lost in 13 matches between the sides.
“Having Nick back after his back injury will be a big plus. He gives us a lot of quality to unlock defences,” said Long.
Josh March and Jack Cresswell both picked up knocks in midweek and will need fitness checks.