13th Dec, 2019

Long furious at play-off ‘farce’

Redditch Editorial 2nd May, 2019 Updated: 2nd May, 2019

IAN Long has labelled the uncertainty over Alvechurch’s play-offs campaign as ‘farcical’ and fears the whole saga has effectively destroyed all of the four Southern Premier Central teams’ hopes of promotion.

Long says he has been left totally disillusioned by the saga which has meant the play-off semi-finals have been postponed FOUR times.

Church are now due to play their semi-final at Stourbridge on Monday (3pm).

“I’ve never ever in all my time in football at any standard known anything to be such a farce,” said the Lye Meadow boss.

“The people trying to sort this out need sacking. It’s absolutely laughable. It’s just ridiculous.”

The match was initially set for Wednesday but then called off by the Southern League after it was revealed that Stratford Town, who were due to play King’s Lynn in the other semi, faced a Football Association investigation over an alleged ineligible player.

The Southern League then announced the semi-finals would be played on Friday night, but Stourbridge then said they couldn’t play then because they share their ground with Stourbridge Cricket Club and said it would be played on Thursday.

Their social media post was subsequently taken down and then yesterday morning the Southern League announced the semi-finals would be played at Amblecote on Monday.

With the final on Wednesday before the super final against the Northern Premier play-off winners next Saturday, that would have left the Southern Premier play-off winners facing three games in six days, while the Northern Premier play-off winners will have a clear week to prepare because their final is staged on Saturday, May 4.

The Southern League requested the super final be moved, but an emergency meeting of the FA Alliance Committee rejected that at lunchtime and instead said the semi-finals should be played on Sunday.

However, both Alvechurch and Stourbridge contacted the league to say they preferred to play on Monday.

The King’s Lynn v Stratford semi will now be played on Saturday due to a big sporting event in the Norfolk town.

Long feels Alvechurch, seeking a third promotion in a row, have been left stuck in the middle.

“We cancelled all our plans for Wednesday and asked all the players to sort out their work and other commitments so they could be available to play Friday when the league said the games would be played then,” said Long. “Then Stourbridge say they can’t play on Friday but the rules say that if that’s the case it should be played at Alvechurch.

“Then the league say it’s Thursday. Then Monday and now it’s Sunday, with the final on Wednesday and then the super final on Saturday. All this while the Northern Premier winners will have a complete week’s break. How is that fair?

“None of the Southern Premier sides will have a chance. Three such massive games in six days, with all the travelling, is just no do-able.

“It’s a complete shambles, that’s the only way you can describe it. How are you supposed to prepare?

“I love non-League but after what’s happened in the last few days I’ve totally lost faith.

“It takes up so much time and effort. You ask anybody at any of the four clubs involved, any of the officials, volunteers or players. It costs a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort but this has been an absolute debacle.”

While Alvechurch wait for any further updates from the FA and Southern League, there are further issues over extending the season any further, especially if a player was injured since contracts technically finish at the end of the campaign.

Church ended the regular season with a 1-0 defeat at Needham Market after Long and assistant Rich Colwell made a raft of changes ahead of what should have the midweek play-off game.

Defender Josh Ezewele, however, returned after a four-game lay-off while Ryan Winwood featured, having been with Romulus to boost his fitness after an injury-hit season.

Needham, though, were the better side on the day, extending their unbeaten run to seven matches, with the only goal coming on the stroke of half-time when Church failed to clear a free kick and Decarrey Sherriff scored.

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