IAN LONG has challenged his Alvechurch players to use the bank holiday wins against their local rivals to ignite their season.
After the thrilling 4-3 FA Cup victory against Bromsgrove Sporting on Saturday through two Tom Turton penalties and efforts from Josh March and Luke Yates, Church chalked up their first victory in the Southern Premier Central after sweeping aside Redditch United 3-0 on Monday.
The hosts were 3-0 ahead inside 20 minutes when Dave Bellis netted after just 29 seconds, Josh Ezewele fired home an angled effort and Reds defender Jordan Mills deflected a Kieron Cook cross into his own net.
Manager Long says the derby victories in front of bumper Lye Meadow crowds have created an excited buzz around the club as they prepare to face high-flying visitors Needham Market on Saturday.
Long is still looking to add to the squad after making a seven-day approach for Loughborough University frontman Joe Boachie but he has been delighted with how the players have responded in two high-intensity games.
“There’s been a real buzz after the last two games – it was a great weekend!” he said. “Performances like the last two games help build the team spirit and there were plenty of positives to come out of the matches.
“It’s important we follow it up now. I’m under no illusions that the priority this year is staying up – it’s such a competitive league. Any of the top teams can lose to the bottom teams. If you don’t take your chances or a few players have an off day then you will get beaten.
“It’s important we make our home ground a fortress. We’ve got four points from six so far at Lye Meadow, plus a cup win, and we need to keep up those standards.”
Long was delighted to hand Bellis and Kyle Morrison their first starts of the season against the Reds, while summer recruit Jordan Piggott also impressed in his first two games after stepping into defence for the unavailable Andy Parsons and latest signing Trea Bertie also provided an attacking spark.
“There were so many positives from the bank holiday games,” said the manager. “Having Bellis back with Ryan Winwood and Tom Turton makes a difference, but we’re getting stronger all the time. Kyle Morrison has got a lot of quality and Jordan showed he is really competitive, quick and good on the ball.
“Trea was cup-tied against Bromsgrove but I was really pleased with him coming on for the last 20 minutes against Redditch. He’s not a big lad but when he goes into 50-50 challenges he tends to come away with the ball. He has got a little bit of nous about him.”
Long, however, expects to lose Babucar Sauane, one of the key players in Alvechurch securing successive promotions. The versatile midfielder, who has yet to play this season, is a target for Halesowen Town.
With Church having also bid farewell to Nathan Waite, Long hopes to bring in Loughborough Uni forward Boachie, who has been on the radar for the past season.
“We’ve been aware of him since last season and kept an eye on him,” said Long. “He can play wide or as a No 9 and he has been scoring goals for Loughborough.”
After the contest against Needham – who lie sixth after two wins, two draws and one defeat so far – Alvechurch entertain Redditch on Tuesday, this time in a League Cup tie.
Church then travel to Stratford Town after being paired with their league rivals in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup a week on Saturday.