IAN LONG says there is more to come from Alvechurch and warned they will need to deliver exactly that when they face in-form Stratford Town on Saturday.
The Church manager says the FA Trophy first qualifying round tie at Lye Meadow will be of the biggest games of the season so far against a team who are among the top five form sides in Southern Premier Central.
After losing to Stratford in the League Cup two weeks ago and then bowing out of the JW Hunt Cup with a 5-2 defeat at Bilston Town on Wednesday, tomorrow’s Trophy tie offers Church their last chance of a cup run this term. There is also the matter of the winners collecting £3,250 prize money.
“We are out of all the cups now apart from the Trophy and we really want to have a good run,” said Long, who will await fitness updates on Ryan Winwood, Theo Llewellyn and Zack Foster.
“It’s an opportunity to progress and maybe get the chance to play one of the big National League sides in the competition. Stratford will be thinking exactly the same.
“It’s going to be a tough game because Stratford are on a great run. They beat Leiston 3-2 last week and Leiston are right up there in the play-offs.”
Stratford are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions, including the 4-2 win at Church two weeks ago, but they will also want revenge after being knocked out of the FA Cup in September by Long’s men.
Alvechurch have risen to sixth in Southern Premier Central after first half goals from Dave Bellis and Mitch Botfield – his third in successive games – secured a comfortable 2-0 win at Bedworth United last weekend. Front-runner Yusifu Ceesay also started at the Oval, having returned to the club from Blackpool on a 28-day loan.
“I really do think there’s more to come from us,” said Long. “It’s nice to be in the top six but it’s still early days.
“We’ve not had a settled side yet because of injuries. I don’t feel we’ve been at our strongest yet and we’ve yet to get everybody fit and firing.”
After making 11 changes to the starting line-up – and including seven teenagers – Church were outplayed and swept aside by West Midlands League Premier side Bilston on Wednesday.
Long did not want to risk injury to his regular players ahead of the Stratford game so the squad at Queen Street included Keith Rostill – Church’s all-time top-scorer – who played the final 25 minutes.
Alvechurch were already 3-0 down at that stage after Ryan Boothe (12 mins, 55), and Delano Reid (36) were on target. Hayden Hughes (72, 75) extended the lead to 5-0 before recent signing Andre Landell bagged his first goal and Mark Smith converted a well-taken effort late on.
“It was difficult to find too many positives from Wednesday’s performance but the one positive was Andre coming on for the last half an hour and scoring,” said Long.
“He has been out for a while and is still getting his fitness back but hopefully he will give us another option.”