ALVECHURCH hope the loan capture of James Roberts will provide the ‘out and out goalscorer’ to fire them into the play-offs.
Despite being left shellshocked by Tuesday night’s shock 5-1 home hammering by Barwell, Church remain in fifth place in Southern Premier Central as they prepare for two more matches in succession at Lye Meadow against Hitchin Town and Leiston.
But boss Ian Long bolstered the squad for the run-in with a deadline day deal to sign former Halesowen Town forward Roberts from Hereford. The 22-year-old made his Football League debut aged 18 with Oxford United, scoring twice, and then bagged eight goals in a flying start to this season with Halesowen before stepping up to the National League North with Hereford.
Roberts caught the eye of Long when the latter was part of the backroom team with England C when they played a Herefordshire FA side including the forward who scored in a 2-2 draw last month.
“He played really well that night and I know he also impressed Paul Fairclough [the England C boss],” said Long. “He will be a big signing for us and at a key time in the season.
“James is a different type of player to what we’ve already got. He is an out and out finisher. But he is also an all-rounder; he can score, he can create, he can lead the line and he can play as a No 10. He can slot into a lot of positions.”
While Roberts arrives ahead of Saturday’s home game with Hitchin Town, youngster Luke Yates has moved to Redditch United. Yates has spent the last few months with Wolves Casuals but he had been a key figure in the Church promotion last term after moving from Wednesfield.
Alvechurch are chasing a third promotion in a row but Tuesday’s defeat to Barwell after Zack Foster was red-carded means one point now separates four teams from Alvechurch to eight-placed Biggleswade Town.
It was a surprising result after Church had been in imperious form in defeating hosts St Ives Town on Saturday, with Kyle Morrison heading home a cross from Tom Tonks before Tonks, signed from Stourbridge, marked his debut with a goal from a Josh Ezewele pass.
Red card proves key
On Tuesday, the turning point was a contentious 39th-minute red card for Foster which Church felt was worthy of no more than a booking.
Barwell, who had taken a 15th-minute lead through Brady Hickey, sealed the points with two quickfire goals after the break through Nigel Julien and Jai Rowe. Although Jamie Willets pulled a goal back, further strikes from Hickey and Sam Hollis settled the points and sent Church to their heaviest defeat of the season.
“We were second best,” said Long. “They were better than us all over the pitch.
“On Saturday, every player was seven or eight out of ten, but the only player who looked anything like their usual self was Zack before he was sent off. We didn’t feel it was a red card because the ball was going away from goal when the foul was made.
“Now the test is how we react to the defeat. We’ve got two games at home and we need to get six points.”
Striker Tristian Dunkley, who has not played since December, and playmaker Lee Chilton remain sidelined for the visit of 15th-placed Hitchin. Chilton is awaiting the results of a scan to determined whether his groin injury is a hernia.
On Tuesday, Alvechurch welcome Suffolk side Leiston to Lye Meadow.