ALVECHURCH have been warned they will face a team ‘fighting for their lives’ as they look to celebrate a return to Step Three football for the first time in three decades on Saturday.
A single point from the trip to Shropshire side Shawbury United will mean the Churchmen will be champions of the Midland League Premier Division and seal a return to the Southern League – having lost their status in 1992 – or Northern Premier League, depending on how the leagues are split geographically.
Despite missing the chance to clinch the title on Saturday with a 2-0 defeat at closest rivals Coleshill Town, Church bounced back with a 2-1 win at home to Boldmere St Michaels on Easter Monday to sit six points clear of the Colemen with two games to play.
Manager Ian Long is desperate for the long-time table-toppers to get the job done in the first part of a potential treble but he will not underestimate Shawbury, who currently occupy the final relegation place, one point behind AFC Wulfrunians.
“Shawbury will be scrapping for their lives,” said Long. “They have had some good results at their place – they’ve beaten Coleshill with ten men, they’ve smashed Westfields 5-1.
“We’ve got to be wary of them, we can’t take them for granted. It won’t be easy.
“But the incentive is there for us. We’ve worked for the whole season to get to this stage. Now we need to get over the line.”
Two goals from Dean Rathbone gave hosts Coleshill the points but Alvechurch were also dealt a double injury blow.
Ryan Winwood ended up in hospital after suffering a dislocated shoulder and the problem is likely to need surgery in the summer.
Dave Bellis also limped off with a badly swollen ankle and both players will miss the final two games, although they could be available for the Polymac Packaging League Cup final in a month’s time.
However, Long was delighted to see how Reece Shilvock and Mike Wardle stepped into midfield for Monday’s win against Boldmere.
It also signalled a return for top scorer Josh March after his hamstring injury, with the striker being fouled for the penalty which gave Jamie Ashmore the chance to convert for the 16th-minute opener before heading home an Ashmore cross for the clincher early in the second half.
“On Saturday, I thought Coleshill were the better team but we were the better team on Monday,” said Long. “We brought in some fresh faces and they made a difference – Reece and Mike added a lot of energy.
“I’ve felt for Josh in recent weeks because he’s been out injured and he has been a big part of it, but I’ve told him that if he doesn’t kick a ball again then he’s already played a major part in what we’ve achieved.”
Long, however, has yet to decide whether striker Danny Dubidat will be involved at Shawbury. Dubidat was dropped on Monday after playing for his Sunday side in a cup semi-final.
“He’s in the doghouse at the moment,” said Long.