IAN LONG believes now is the time for his Alvechurch players to ‘step up to the plate’ to secure successive promotions.
Church showed they have the spirit to match their football after hauling themselves back from 2-0 with 14 minutes left to beat Carlton Town 3-2 on Tuesday to follow their 1-1 draw at champions-elect Basford United on Saturday.
Long’s men now need five wins from their seven remaining matches to secure a top two spot in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South and a run of four matches in a week starts on Saturday when they entertain Stocksbridge Park Steels at Lye Meadow.
With Josh March having to serve a three-match ban after his red card at Basford and, with the frantic run-in prompting changes, Long says there is an opportunity for previously unsung heroes to step forward.
Nathan Waite seized his chance in midweek, bagging the equaliser for his seventh goal in eight matches and putting his name firmly in the frame. For all the chances Church have been creating – they had 30 efforts on goal on Tuesday – they have failed to finish off their dominant play.
“Nathan has had to be patient but you look at his goalscoring ratio and it’s very good,” said Long. “He deserves his chance.
“Aaron Lloyd has got one goal in eight starts, Jordan Nadat has one in 11. For a No 9 in a team that has been dominating games, it’s not goo enough. It’s tough because their general performances have been good, but we need goals.
“We have been playing good football, pegging teams back, but if you don’t score it’s on a knife-edge. Now we need every single player to step up to the plate.”
With March absent, Elliott Reeves, a deadline signing from Heanor Town, and Connor Deards, who returned from Bromsgrove Sporting last month, will come into contention as well. Midfielder Mitch Botfield, however, faces a fitness check after a foot injury.
Long praised his team’s never-say-die spirit after they grabbed a rousing 3-2 comeback win on Tuesday against Carlton.
Despite Alvechurch being on top and having a ‘goal’ disallowed, Mamoke Akanu gave the visitors the lead on 40 minutes and Tyler Blake pounced on a slip from Ash Carter to make it 2-0 six minutes into the second half.
However, March rifled home on 76 minutes to signal the Church fightback. Waite headed the equaliser and then Tom Turton tugged home the penalty winner on 88 minutes after Babucar Sauane had been fouled.
Sauane had been on target on Saturday at Basford, cancelling out Robert Duffy’s 65th-minute opener a minute later.
“It shows the character of the side, to come back from 2-0 down with 14 minutes to go,” said Long. “They’ve done it before when we were 3-0 down at Leek and we drew and we’ve got late goals against Chasetown and Romulus. It shows the fitness we’ve got and character. That’s the make-up of a good side.”
After the visit of Yorkshire side Stocksbridge, Kidsgrove Athletic are the guests on Tuesday before Church head to Cleethorpes Town on Thursday and then meet Carlton in the return fixture next Saturday.
DEAN FISHER hit a hat-trick as Alvechurch Reserves defeated Coton Green Reserves 3-0 to progress to the final of the Challenge Trophy in the Midland League, writes Lewis Glennon.
The semi-final was reversed to Coton’s New Mill Lane and the home side had the first chance when Marian Iotu’s shot dropped just wide of the post.
Alvechurch soon took the lead when Fisher made a strong run into the box and was brought down by Coton defender Thomas Archer. This allowed Fisher to claim his 15th goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Another strong Fisher run led to him winning a free-kick and the midfielder superbly fired the ball in from 25 yards out before Oli Hartill’s side nearly got a third before half-time, only for Luke Oakley to see his shot saved by Coton keeper Mark Bowen.
In the second half, Alvechurch continued to work hard and press Coton while remained defensively sound. Alvechurch sealed victory with another penalty after Elliot Nash was fouled and Fisher calmly slotted the ball away for his hat-trick.
Alvechurch will face either Cadbury Athletic or Gresley in the final. They next play on April 21 at home to Bolehall Swift Reserves in a Reserve Division fixture.