Alvechurch 2 Hinckley AFC 1
Polymac Packaging League Cup final
JOSH MARCH showed his lethal finishing skills once again to fire Alvechurch to the second part of a potential treble.
After a goalless first half, top scorer March’s close-range header and then a smartly taken shot ensured Ian Long’s Midland League Premier Division champions added the League Cup to their trophy cabinet, emulating Hereford’s exploits last season.
Hinckley threatened a late hurrah when Francino Francis bundled home three minutes from time but it was too little, too late.
It was probably inevitable that March should settle Monday’s final in front of 628 fans at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium, with the front-runner netting for the fourth game in a row after returning from injury.
However, it was more importantly a collective effort, led by man of the match Tom Turton. As manager Long admitted, it was hard work but the Churchmen had the moments of quality at key times.
Hinckley, having been reinstated after semi-final opponents St Andrews were thrown out for fielding an ineligible player, seized their unexpected chance of a showpiece final and proved doughty opponents.
While Alvechurch had more of the ball, Hinckley created the better chances in the first half but could not find a way past stand-in keeper Ryan Price, thrust into the team with No 1 Paul Evans away and Lewis Gwilliams cup-tied.
The keeper tipped over James Williams’ looping header, then denied Paul Sullivan after a flying run and kept out Lee Butler. In between, former Redditch player Javia Roberts left the Church defence trailing but dragged a powerful shot inches wide.
Alvechurch lacked their usual precision in passing but forced Hinckley keeper Haydn Whitcombe into a flying save to keep out March’s header from Connor Deards’ cross and then an even better stop to claw away Jack Cresswell’s angled shot after Turton and Jamie Ashmore combined with a short corner move.
It was a Turton corner which led to the opening goal on 62 minutes. Jamie Willets regained possession from Turton’s left-wing flag-kick to send the ball back to the midfielder who returned it to the far post for March to nod home.
Hinckley responded when Sullivan’s strike was palmed away from by Price but they were caught out again on 73 minutes. Zack Foster curled in a free kick from the left and March was lurking unmarked eight yards from goal to tuck home his 34th goal of the season.
Foster should have had a third, only to strike the post after sliding in to meet Ashmore’s searching cross in a scintillating counter-attack.
Hinckley were not yet beaten and Roberts somehow failed to convert substitute Isaac Cooper’s searching cross.
However, on 87 minutes another Cooper cross presented Francis with the chance to slot home at the near post and, although the final three minutes and four of added time became attack versus defence, Alvechurch saw out time without too much anxiety.
Now the final part of a potential treble remains when the Churchmen head to Molineux, home of Wolves, for the JW Hunt Cup final against Wednesfield next Tuesday.
Report by Colin Stoner.