Alvechurch 2 Hanley Town 0
FA Cup preliminary round
AN FA Cup glory run has been the one thing missing in Alvechurch’s rise and rise in the past few seasons, but on Saturday they overcame a tricky test against Hanley to progress to the first qualifying round, writes Colin Stoner.
It is 26 years since Church got beyond the early stages to within sight of the first round proper – reaching the final qualifying round in 1991/92.
Two goals from Josh March meant they started their 2017/18 campaign with victory but North West Counties League Premier side Hanley made it far from simple.
With front-runners Neville Thompson and Theo Stair providing plenty of trickery, Hanley were a threat, but Church’s back line, led by the impressive Ash Carter, were up to the challenge.
They kept the goal threats to a minimum and, when Thompson got within sight of goal on 12 minutes, keeper Jasko Keranovic smothered his shot bravely.
Church struggled for any real fluency but March had an effort blocked after good work by Yusifu Ceesay and Jamie Willets’ header went wide as they pushed forward.
The best move of the first half was rewarded with the opening goal on 31 minutes when Zack Foster, who pushed forward down the left, found space and fired in a cross to the far post for March to drill home with an instant shot.
Church chased a second goal before half time but Hanley full back Jonathan Sheldon charged down a rocket strike from March and then the elusive Ceesay twisted past two defenders but fired into the side-netting.
Hanley, however, roared into the second period with extra purpose and Dan Cope’s cross-shot flashed across goal and Martin Stanyer fired just wide.
Any chance of a comeback was effectively snuffed out with Church’s second goal on 58 minutes which was all down to March’s persistence.
He chased down a long ball which defender Doug Price seemed to have under control in the right back berth, snatched possession and then raced away into the penalty area before thundering a shot past keeper Joe Hemmings into the roof of the net.
It was March’s fourth goal in three matches and he had chances to complete a hat-trick, firing straight at Hemmings and heading wide from Tom Turton’s corner.
Other opportunities fell to Luke Keen, who was denied by Hemmings’ flying stop and also missed the target from Foster’s cross, while Ceesay also nodded wide and Mitch Botfield sent a looping header over from Chris Withington’s cross.
Hanley, to their credit, battled to the end and Keranovic produced a smart stop in injury time to deny substitute Oliver Edwards.
Monday’s draw for the first qualifying round handed Ian Long’s Church a visit to Market Drayton Town. The tie will take place on Saturday, September 2 and £3,000 will go to the winners.