IAN LONG has earmarked Alvechurch’s successive home matches as ‘must-win’ to get them back on the promotion track.
The Church boss admitted he did not know whether to smile or grimace after two roller-coaster away performances in the past week – conceding an injury-time equaliser at basement side Sheffield and then storming back from 3-0 down at Leek Town on Tuesday to draw 3-3.
But the results make securing maximum points against Corby Town on Saturday and then Carlton Town on Tuesday imperative to keep chasing the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South pace-setters.
“We need to take maximum points from the next two games – it’s that simple,” said Long. “It could be a big weekend because Bedworth, who are third, play Stamford in fourth and Basford go to Cleethorpes.
“Our home form has been a little bit sticky, we’ve lost three at home already and we’ve dropped too many points.”
With unbeaten Basford now 19 points clear, the battle for the second automatic spot is now the focus.
Cleethorpes’ charge has been halted after being docked 12 points for fielding an ineligible player while Alvechurch lie in fifth place, seven points behind Frickley but with three games in hand, and Church head to the Yorkshire side a week on Tuesday.
But Long’s men will also be out to prove a point as well as winning three when they welcome Corby to Lye Meadow this weekend.
The 3-1 defeat at the Steelmen in October is Alvechurch’s only league loss on the road and it was a performance to forget.
“We’ve got to win on Saturday,” said Long. “But we know that will be easier said than done after Corby beat us 3-1 at their place.
“That was probably one of the worst performances of the season. We just didn’t turn up. We’ve got to make sure we get our revenge on Saturday and get the three points.”
It felt like two points dropped last weekend when Church twice led at Sheffield.
Tom Turton slotted home a 30th-minute penalty after Josh March had been fouled and, although an Andy Parsons own goal levelled matters six minutes into the second half, Church regained the lead through March’s deflected effort.
Sheffield, however, had another stroke of fortune to make it 2-2 when a harshly-awarded free kick was converted by Adam Chapman.
It was a different tale on Tuesday as Church found themselves 3-0 down with eight minutes to play at Leek, only to haul themselves level and miss a winning chance.
Robert Stevenson, Niall Maguire and Timothy Grice all netted for the Staffordshire side, before Ash Carter’s 82nd-minute free kick gave Alvechurch hope.
Yusifu Ceesay, who produced a man of the match show as a half time substitute, tapped home Luke Yates’ knockdown on 88 minutes and, with Leek down to nine men after a second red card, Aaron Lloyd headed home a Turton corner for his first goal for Church since joining from Stourport Swifts.
“We had a chance to nick it right at the death when Josh got in a looping header that I thought was dropping in, only to go wide,” said Long. “As a game, it was a great advert for non-League. It had everything.”
Babucar Sauane, who has not played since November, is due back after getting married in the Gambia today (Friday) but Church will need to assess his fitness, while Chris Whittingham is set to have a run out with Wednesfield as he steps up his match sharpness.