NEWLY-PROMOTED Alvechurch can expect a rapid introduction to the standard expected in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South by the quality of their first opponents, according to manager Ian Long.
The Midland Premier champions open with a home clash against Leek Town on Saturday, August 12 before a trip to Gresley on Tuesday, August 15 and a preliminary round FA Cup tie at home to Hanley Town or Atherstone Town on August 19.
Church face nearest rivals Romulus on August Bank Holiday Monday and Boxing Day and Bedworth United on New Year’s Day and Easter Monday.
Long says the opener against Leek will be a challenge, with the Staffordshire side having finished ninth last year and been regular play-off contenders.
“You would expect Leek to be strong. They have been for the last few seasons and have been in around the top end of the table. It will be a good marker for us,” said the boss.
Alvechurch kicked off their pre-season friendlies on Wednesday with an emphatic 5-0 win at Tipton Town. Summer signing Luke Yates impressed with two goals, with last term’s Golden Boot winner Josh March, Danny Dubidat and Jamie Ashmore (penalty) also on target.
The biggest concern for Long is to build up players’ fitness and he was relieved the squad came through with no further injuries to add to a casualty list which already includes Andy Parsons, Jack Cresswell, Connor Deards and Ryan Winwood.
Defender Parsons and midfielder Cresswell have yet to be able to join in training and Long admits Parsons’ absence could prompt a move into the transfer market. Winwood will not feature in the warm-up games because he is due to have an operation in August on the shoulder he damaged against Coleshill last April while Deards hurt his hamstring in training.
“With the state of the Tipton pitch, I gave the players the chance to miss the game because I didn’t want to pick up any more injuries,” said Long. “Thankfully we came through OK and there were some good performances. Luke Yates got two goals on his debut and looked really sharp.
“But it’s early days. Everything is geared up to being ready for August 12. It’s nice to win games – and I want to win every game – but the most important thing is that we are ready to go out and win against Leek.”
Trialists Brett Lloyd and Romario Martin both featured on Wednesday and will again be involved when Alvechurch visit Hereford Lads Club, last season’s West Midlands Division One champions, on Saturday before Long’s men entertain Bromsgrove Sporting in a clash between the Midland Premier and Midland Division One ‘Invincibles’ on Tuesday at Lye Meadow.
Lloyd, a full back from Cadbury Athletic, and striker Martin, who bagged plenty of goals for Solihull Moors Academy and Highgate United, will continue to train with Church.
Long revealed his disappointment at young prospect Brogan Halpin’s decision to leave. The manager had earmarked the utility player, who made nine starts last season, to become an established first-teamer but he has told the club he does not want to play anymore.
Long said: “I’m gutted. He has been at the club since he was 15 and has got so much ability. He could have really pushed on this season.
“He says he is not in love with football anymore and doesn’t want to play. I just hope he changes his mind because he has got a lot to offer.”
ALVECHURCH LEAGUE FIXTURES:
Sat 12 v Leek Town, H
Tue 15 v Gresley, A
Sat 19 v Hanley Town or Atherstone Town, H FAC
Sat 26 v Frickley Athletic, H
Mon 28 v Romulus, A
Tue 05 v Basford United, H
Sat 09 v Stocksbridge Park Steels, A
Tue 12 v Loughborough Dynamo, A
Sat 16 v Carlton Town, H
Wed 20 v Corby Town, A
Sat 23 v Stamford, H
Sat 30 v Peterborough Sports, A
Tue v Market Drayton Town, H
Sat 07 v Belper Town, A FAT
Sat 14 v Chasetown, H
Sat 21 v Belper Town, A
Sat 04 v Lincoln United, H
Sat 11 v Cleethorpes Town, A
Sat 18 v Sheffield, H
Sat 25 v Newcastle Town, H
Sat 02 v Spalding United, A
Sat 09 v Kidsgrove Athletic, H
Sat 16 v Leek Town, A
Sat 23 v Gresley, H
Tue 26 v Bedworth United, A
Sat 30 v Frickley Athletic, A
Mon 01 v Romulus, H
Sat 06 v Chasetown, A
Sat 13 v Belper Town, H
Sat 20 v Lincoln United, A
Sat 27 v Cleethorpes Town, H
Sat 03 v Sheffield, A
Sat 10 v Corby Town, H
Sat 17 v Stamford, A
Sat 24 v Peterborough Sports, H
Sat 03 v Market Drayton Town, A
Sat 17 v Newcastle Town, A
Sat 24 v Spalding United, H
Sat 31 v Kidsgrove Athletic, A
Mon 02 v Bedworth United, H
Sat 07 v Basford United, A
Sat 14 v Stocksbridge Park Steels, H
Sat 21 v Carlton Town, A
Sat 28 v Loughborough Dynamo, H