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ALVECHURCH boss Ian Long admits he has become increasingly frustrated with a pre-season programme bedevilled by injury and unavailability.
Church were without eight players as they suffered their first defeat in five warm-up games in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Stratford Town.
While Long says absentees at this stage of the season are inevitable, the chopping and changing has not helped. Although Yusufi Ceesay will not be available until after the first game of the season, Long is hopeful injury-hit Andy Parsons and Jack Cresswell could both get some game time in the home friendly against Northern Premier Stourbridge on Saturday.
Centre back Parsons, who was hurt in the final game of Alvechurch’s treble-winning season in the JW Hunt Cup final at Molineux, and midfielder Cresswell both had runs before the Stratford game.
Zack Foster, who hurt his ankle in last weekend’s 4-2 win at Paget Rangers, is also expected to be fit but that still leaves Jamie Willets, Dave Bellis, Ryan Winwood, Paul Evans and Ceesay missing.
“We are missing key players from key areas and it’s a little bit frustrating at the moment,” said Long. “I’m not making excuses because I know other teams have similar problems.
“You want to use pre-season for fitness and to help the new players get to know their team-mates and having players missing doesn’t help.”
Long says he was happier with a midweek defeat to Stratford, rather than the performance in the win at Paget’s artificial pitch which came courtesy of goals from Connor Deards, Tom Turton, Luke Keen and Danny Dubidat.
“We got much more out of the Stratford game, despite losing, than we did in the win at Paget,” said Long. “We conceded two sloppy goals against Stratford but that apart there was very little between the teams.
“Stourbridge will be an even tougher test and, although we’ll be missing players again we will get on with it. It’s all about being ready for our first league game on August 12.”
Long looks set to conclude a deal to add Chris Whittingham to his squad for the new campaign after impressing in pre-season.
The midfielder has already played at Step Four, having been part of Shortwood United’s play-off-chasing squad last term, and Long is hoping to agree terms.
“Chris has done well and we hope we can agree a deal,” said Long. “He was at Hartpury College last season and played for Shortwood United. They finished sixth in Southern South & West so that shows his pedigree. He will give us extra options in central midfield and he can also play at full back.”
After the Stourbridge friendly, Alvechurch head to neighbours Highgate United on Tuesday before facing Redditch United at Lye Meadow next Friday (August 4).
Meanwhile, Alvechurch Reserves suffered their first defeat in pre-season with a 2-1 loss at Studley.
Oliver Harthill’s side had won their first two matches, against Wednesfield and Continental Star, and took the lead against the Bees through Lewis Brade.
However, Studley showed their experience and class, quickly levelling through Danny Lennon before Dayle Kenny got the winner.