IAN Long says Alvechurch will relish the chance to be party-poopers at Kettering Town on Saturday because their own need for points is just as great.
Victory for the Poppies in front of a packed-out crown at Latimer Park would clinch the Southern Premier Central title.
However, Alvechurch head to Northamptonshire seeking a third win in a week, having beaten Hitchin Town 3-1 on Saturday and Leiston 2-1 on Tuesday, and needing to tighten their grip on a play-off place.
Church lie fifth, one point behind Stratford Town and six points clear of AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Biggleswade Town and seven ahead of Coalville Town, with all the teams having five games left.
“There’s a bit of a gap but we know there’s a lot of work yet and some big games ahead, starting on Saturday,” said Long. “It’s a big game for Kettering but it’s just as important for us.
“Kettering are a good side and they are going to win the league. We respect them but we want to spoil their party on Saturday. We fancy our chances against anyone and we will be setting our stall out to win the game.
“We’ve been in this position before. Last season we went to Basford and drew 1-1 when they were crowned champions. When some of the lads and I were at Tividale we went to Mickleover Sports on a Tuesday night when they could have won the league and we managed to turn them over 1-0.
“They are the sort of big games you want to be involved in.”
The Church boss has been delighted by his players quickly erasing the disappointment of last week’s home drubbing by Barwell by chalking up six points.
On Tuesday night, visitors Leiston struck first on 24 minutes with Matthew Blake firing home a crunching 25-yarder but Kieron Cook levelled five minutes before half-time with a header from Tom Turton’s cross.
The Church winner came two minutes after half-time with deadline signing James Roberts bagging his first goal with a smartly-taken finish.
On Saturday, two quickfire goals before half-time gave Church the initiative against Hitchin.
Tom Tonks nodded in a Josh March cross for the opener on 38 minutes and then March flicked on for Aaron Lloyd to make it 2-0 just before the break.
Hitchin pulled a goal back through Scott Belgrove on 72 minutes but March got his reward to make it 3-1 from Turton’s free kick.
Long was particularly pleased with the performances of Roberts, their loan signing from Hereford, and Lloyd after stressing the Church strikeforce would be key to their play-off push.
“On Saturday, Lloydy was superb – I was delighted with him,” said Long. “He took a bit of flak over Christmas but he has been playing really well. He has put in a lot of work to lose weight and his overall contribution to the team has been great.
“James (Roberts) came in last week and probably needed Saturday’s game under his belt but he was a real menace on Tuesday. He didn’t give Leiston a moment’s rest and the way he took his chance and anticipating the defender was top quality. He’s a bundle of energy and a real example to everybody.”
Cook, Josh Ezewele and Ash Carter will face fitness checks for the trip to Kettering after picking up knocks against Leiston, while Lee Chilton is still awaiting the results of his scan over a possible hernia.