4th Apr, 2020

Long and Co are back in the bid to steer Church to safety

Redditch Editorial 27th Feb, 2020

IAN LONG says he is fully confident that, having steered Alvechurch into Southern Premier Central, he is the man to keep them there.

Long returned as Church boss on Wednesday, just 48 hours after departing Stourbridge and will step back into the dugout, with Richard Colwell and Chris Walwyn back alongside him, for Saturday’s crunch clash at St Ives Town.

St Ives sit one place and two points above second-bottom Church, who have a game in hand.

Long told the Redditch Standard he had been shocked to depart Stourbridge, with the Glassboys one point off the play-offs, but he was ready for a relegation battle with Church.

He says they will quickly assess the squad – but he already knows many of the players – and will look to bolster the numbers. Former player Aaron Lloyd, one of a number to follow Long to Stourbridge, is already a target.

“We’ve come in with the target to keep the club up at step three,” said Long. “We all helped take them there in the first place and we don’t want to see all that hard work come to nought.

“It is going to be tough but myself, Rich Colwell and Chris Walwyn wouldn’t have taken the job if we didn’t think we could pull it off.

“We played Alvechurch twice with Stourbridge and there wasn’t much in the games. It’s fine margins.

“I think the area they’ve struggled in is putting the ball in the net but, if you’ve not got a No 9 scoring goal after goal, you need to spread the goals throughout the side.

“Even in our successes here, we never had a prolific No 9, apart from probably Jordan Nadat in the early days, but we had Josh March chipping in from wide areas, Yusifu Ceesay chipping in and the central midfielders and defenders all chipping in.

“I always say to players that everybody is responsible for keeping clean sheets, from the centre forward to the goalkeeper and it’s the same when it comes to goalscoring.”

Long, who led Church to two promotions and then the play-off final last season, will become Church’s third different boss since he left for Amblecote last summer, following Darren Byfield and then Dean Holtham, who has stepped aside.

Last season the bottom three teams from each of the four step three divisions were automatically relegated, making 12 in all.

However, this term changes being made at step four mean only ten will go down – the bottom two from each of Premier Central, Premier South, Northern Premier and Isthmian Premier plus the two third-from-bottom teams with the worst points per game average.

Alvechurch have 17 points, with four wins from 29 games, with St Ives on 19. Leiston sit nine points clear of Church, who have a game in hand and Stratford Town are 11 points clear having played three more games.

“We know we haven’t got much time and we need to start getting points quickly,” Long added. “We will look at the players here but we’ve already worked with many of them like Kyle Morrison, Taylor Morrison, Mitch Botfield, Zack Foster and Ryan Winwood who were all in the 16 for the play-off final.

“We’ve had Nehemia Zazi and Ryan Wollacot training before. They are good players, they shouldn’t be in this position, but it’s about results.

“They haven’t got those results but we’ve got time to get the points to keep us safe.”

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