IAN LONG is convinced there is more to come from Alvechurch as they look to extend their unbeaten run over the Bank Holiday.
Church made it two wins and one draw from their three matches so far after two Josh March goals fired them past Hanley Town 2-0 in last weekend’s FA Cup tie.
A trip to Northern Premier League South colleagues Market Drayton Town beckons next on Saturday, September 2 – after Town dumped out Sporting Khalsa on penalties – as Alvechurch look to progress beyond the first qualifying round for the first time in 26 years.
Long says it will be a tie to relish but the focus this weekend is to get maximum points from Saturday’s home game with Frickley Athletic and then Monday’s trip to Sutton Coldfield-based Romulus.
“I still feel a few of the players are still finding their match legs and you could see that on Saturday,” said Long. “Even though pre-season is pretty intense it’s all about competitive games. Every time we get through 90 minutes we will be stronger.
“I’ve got no worries about the fitness levels. You could that against Hanley, we got stronger as the game went on on.”
The start against North West Counties League Premier side Hanley was not quite so convincing and Church’s on-loan Albion keeper Jasko Keranovic needed to be alert to keep out Nevile Thompson when the Hanley dangerman was through on goal.
However, March smashed home a superb first-time finish from Zack Foster’s left-wing cross on 31 minutes and then the striker pinched the ball off defender Doug Price in the left back berth to cut in and finish into the roof of the net past keeper Joe Hemmings just before the hour mark.
“I thought Hanley were the better side in the first half. They won most of the 50/50s ball, especially in midfield. Bringing on Mitch Botfield made a difference, with his strength and power. In the end, our quality shone through.
“It was a lesson to learn. There will be times when we have to dig in and we have to scrap. We did that and we had that little bit of extra quality in the final third.”
Alvechurch will welcome back teenage forward Luke Yates, who was away on holiday last week, for the weekend games, with Long suggesting he will swap around his players for two games in 72 hours.
Skipper Dave Bellis is unavailable for the Frickley game because he is at a wedding, joining long-term casualty Ryan Winwood (shoulder operation) on the absentees list. Winwood is expected to be out of action until Christmas after undergoing surgery at the start of the month.
ALVECHURCH insist Ash Carter will be a key figure in their future after rejecting a bid from Hereford for the defender.
The 21-year-old defender is on contract with Church after moving from Kidderminster Harriers in the summer.
Manager Ian Long confirmed the Bulls had made an offer for the former Wolves professional but Alvechurch had no hesitation in dismissing the bid.
“There was a bid from Hereford but we’ve turned it down,” said Long. “Ash is not for sale as far as I’m concerned.
“He is a big part of our plans for the future. We want to be contenders, to push for more success and we don’t want to lose players after putting this squad together.”
Carter, composed on the ball and consistently effective in defence, picked up a dead leg in last weekend’s FA Cup win against Hanley Town but Long expects he will be fit to face Frickley Athletic at Lye Meadow on Saturday.
ALVECHURCH Reserves have suffered a frustrating start to the season after losing both their opening games.
Oliver Hartill’s new team were handed a 5-0 defeat at last season’s champions Gresley Reserves in their first competitive game together in the Midland League Reserve Division on Saturday.
Then they were knocked out of the Smedley Crooke Memorial Charity Cup at the first hurdle, losing 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw at Bromyard Town on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Alvechurch had no answer to Gresley’s clinical finishing.
Goals from Zakim Evans, Harry Lansdowne and Sam Hammerton as well as a James Perry own goal gave Gresley a 4-0 advantage at half time.
Corey Virgo-Broom forced Max Atkin into a save as Alvechurch got more into the game after the break but Hammerton added Gresley’s fifth in the second half.
In Tuesday’s cup clash, Harthill’s men took the lead through debutant Elliot Nash, but they trailed 2-1 at half time after Martin Smith and Tom Riley scored for Bromyard.
However, Church forced penalties thanks to Reece Wager’s own goal from Reece Edward-Williams’ cross. However, Joe Spalding fired over and Nash’s penalty hit the bar to send Bromyard through.
The Reserves are back in action on Saturday against Walsall Wood Reserves in a league match at The Hayes.