17th Dec, 2017

Football must come first to secure title triumph says Church boss

Liam Moakes 16th Mar, 2017

IAN Long has urged his players to be prepared to ‘sacrifice’ the next six weeks to their football to become Alvechurch history-makers.

The Churchmen have become increasing title favourites with nine matches to play in the Midland League Premier Division, but manager Long stressed nothing has been decided yet.

He said Alvechurch face “nine cup finals” to secure the crown, as well as continuing their challenge in the Polymac Packaging League Cup and JW Hunt Cup.

Long, who has bolstered his squad by signing Sutton Coldfield Town striker Josh McKenzie and targeted Stourport Swifts striker Aaron Lloyd, reckons seven wins from nine will be enough to become champions.

However, a maximum 27 points tally would take them one point ahead of last season’s club record of 101 when they finished runners-up to Hereford.

“We are favourites now, no doubt about that, but there’s still a lot of football to play,” said Long.

“We are in a great position but we need to make sure we get over the line. We need to be completely focused to give ourselves the best chance. The players have got to understand they need to be prepared to sacrifice the next six weeks to their football.

No room for complacency

“I don’t think the title is done and dusted by any means. We can’t be complacent. We have got to keep applying ourselves, to keep football at the top of the agenda. If they don’t and we don’t get across the finish line, then the players will regret it for the rest of their lives.

“We’ve shown what we can do on the pitch but we need to be better than everybody else away from football.”

Long will look to the players who helped him win the Midland Alliance title in 2013 with Tividale to provide the driving force to push Alvechurch, named Team of the Month for February, closer to the crown.

“We’ve got eight players who have won the league – seven were with me at Tividale and Jamie Willets won it last year with Hereford – so they know what it’s like to win it,” said Long. “But we also know what it’s like to lose out too. We can’t let the opportunity pass us by.”

After no game last week, Alvechurch return to action on Saturday when they head to Coventry United and then meet Highgate United in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Lye Meadow on Tuesday.

Top scorer Josh March and defender Andy Parsons have both been troubled by hamstring injuries but should be fit.

The Churchmen are likely to utilise their squad for both games but Long stressed they are determined to continue their cup quest and become only the fourth club to complete a Midland League/Alliance double after Leamington (2006/7), Market Drayton Town (2008/9) and Hereford (2014/15).

Alvechurch have drafted in experienced front-runner McKenzie from Northern Premier side Sutton. It is the third time McKenzie has signed for the Churchmen in a CV which includes spells with Atherstone, Boldmere, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Rushall.

“He’s a big, strong lad who will give us another attacking option,” said Long.

Long also confirmed a seven-day approach for Stourport’s former Halesowen Town and Causeway forward Lloyd.

Lloyd had been with Alvechurch at the start of the season but then moved to Swifts. Long and No 2 Rich Colwall can talk to the player tomorrow (Saturday) and hope he could be involved against Coventry.

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