IAN LONG has told his Alvechurch players to ‘dare to dream’ as they seek a third promotion in successive seasons.
Boss Long and assistant Rich Colwell admit Church have exceeded expectations to book their place in the play-offs in their first season in Southern Premier Central.
The fourth-placed side head to Suffolk side Needham Market for their final match of the regular season on Saturday before preparing to travel to either Stourbridge or King’s Lynn Town on Wednesday in the play-offs semi-final. The final then follows a week on Saturday (May 4) before a Super Final against the winner of the Northern Premier final to decide who will be playing in National League North in 2019/20.
Long feels getting into the play-offs is a better achievement than winning promotion last season from Evo-Stik Northern Division One South and being 2017 Midland League champions because Church have been such underdogs in the league.
However, he stressed they will fear nobody in the play-offs.
“Our away record has been very good so we will fancy our chances wherever we have to go next Wednesday,” said Long.
“Getting to the play-offs is a massive achievement in itself. At the start of the season I would have been happy to have finished fifth from bottom, just to stay in the Premier Division.
“I’m sure there were people who would have thought that OK we did well last season but could they do it at step three? We’ve been up there for most of the season and we deserve to be where we are.
“Getting to step two would be amazing. It would be a dream but I want to dream and so do my players.”
Alvechurch made changes for Monday’s draw with Banbury United – with Josh March, Aaron Lloyd and Dan Crane rested – but they should all be in contention to travel to Needham. Defender Josh Ezewele faces a fitness test after not being risked in the Easter fixtures.
Fourth-placed Alvechurch, one point ahead of Stratford Town who visit champions Kettering Town, head into Saturday’s fixture on a six-match unbeaten run. Having drawn 3-3 in a roller-coaster at Stourbridge on Good Friday, it finished 1-1 at home to Banbury on Monday with deadline signing James Roberts scoring the equalisers in both games.
Banbury struck first on Monday, with Amer Awadh volleying home a far post cross on 12 minutes but two minutes later Roberts rifled home a stunning curling effort from 25 yards.
It was his fifth goal in six games, with goal number four rescuing a point at Stourbridge after a memorable contest at Amblecote.
Despite Tom Turton firing over from a second-minute penalty, Church still opened a 2-0 lead with goals either side of half-time from Roberts and March.
However, the Glassboys refused to crack and by the 72nd minute they were leading 3-2 after three headers from Paul McCone, Kaimann Anderson and Aaron Hayden found the net.
Four minutes into stoppage time though, Andre Landell’s cross fell to Roberts and he thumped home for 3-3.