IAN LONG has called on football fans across the borough to collectively become Alvechurch’s 12th man for a match which will begin a make-or-break spell.
Manager Long describes the visit of promotion rivals Cleethorpes Town to Lye Meadow on Saturday as a ‘big game’ and one which signals the start of a vital run of fixtures in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League South through February.
With Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion playing away in the FA Cup, Aston Villa having no game and Redditch United also on their travels, Long hopes their supporters will join the Church fans to create a buzzing atmosphere for the fifth versus third contest.
Although unbeaten runaway leaders Basford United are 22 points clear, only three points separate second-placed Frickley Athletic and fifth-placed Church, while Church have games in hand on all their rivals.
Long will have new signing Elliott Reeves, a versatile forward signed from Heanor Town, set for his debut in what will be one of the league’s matches of the day.
“It’s a big game, no doubt about it,” said Long. “They are one of our biggest rivals for potentially an automatic promotion spot.
“It’s early days because there’s still so much football to be played but if we can get the win – and we will be going all out for three points – we will be in a strong position.
“They’ll be thinking the same and they have said they will be bringing a few fans with them so we need as many Alvechurch people as possible to come and support us. It’s one of the non-League matches of the day and, with Blues and Albion away, Villa not playing and Redditch away at Frome, we’re hoping all their fans will come and cheer us on.”
There is extra spice to the fixtures as the Humberside club ended Alvechurch’s Wembley dreams when they last met – in the FA Vase two years ago – and half a dozen Church players are still in action from that 2-1 defeat.
Josh March scored the goal to give Alvechurch the lead in the last 16 Vase tie in January 2016 before two goals in as many minutes turned the tie around.
Alvechurch showed their own powers of recovery last weekend as they returned to winning ways with a 1-0 at Lincoln United, courtesy of Luke Yates’ goal. The young forward struck on 33 minutes, firing home after newcomer Aaron Lloyd and March combined.
It was the perfect response after the end of the their ten-match unbeaten run the previous weekend to Belper Town.
“We showed our bouncebackability,” said Long. “We had the better chances and we deserved the three points. But the other positive was that we defended well.
“It was quite an even game, after we have dominated recent games, but we defended resolutely and I don’t remember Lewis Gwilliams in goal having to make a save.”
After Lloyd made his first appearance since rejoining from Stourport, Alvechurch will have a second new striker in their ranks to face Cleethorpes after recruiting Reeves from Midland Premier side Heanor.
The 20-year-old has bagged 15 goals in 23 appearances for Heanor this season and 36 in 68 overall.
He is a university student in Birmingham and wanted to play closer to his studies and has signed on dual registration forms.
“He is quick, he scores goals and he has got a good physique,” said Long. “He can play anywhere along the front line.
“He is another talented young player who has a lot of potential and we hope we will be able to get the best out of him.”