ALVECHURCH manager Ian Long says the return of Ryan Winwood will be a huge positive to take from their midweek Integro League Cup exit.
Despite a 1-1 draw at Stafford Rangers – Jamie Willets’ header cancelling out Levi Reid’s opener – Church bowed out 4-2 on penalties after Danny Dubidat and Jamie Ashmore missed with their efforts.
However, Long was delighted to see midfielder Winwood come through his first match this term for Alvechurch after undergoing a shoulder operation.
“I don’t like losing any game but the most pleasing thing for me was a lot of players who needed game time got minutes on the pitch,” said Long.
“It was great to see Ryan making his first start of the season and he was my man of the match. He was superb on the ball and off the ball. That’s a real plus.”
Long made nine changes to the line-up which had to settle for a goalless draw at home to Newcastle Town on Saturday, with youngster Ben Tilbury again catching the eye alongside Winwood and McCauley Manning.
There was also a first team debut for reserve team striker Corey Virgo-Brown, who played for 55 minutes and fellow second team forward Ethan Hanks was included on the bench.
Winwood’s return will be timely after Church had to rule out fellow midfielder Mitch Botfield after he suffered an ankle injury against Newcastle, while Luke Yates’ comeback was cut short at Stafford. The youngster had missed a month through a rib injury but limped out of action with an Achilles problem.
The midweek game also marked a return for Jordan Nadat who partnered fit-again Nathan Waite up front and Long stressed that strength in depth will be key as Alvechurch look to continue to challenge as promotion contenders.
Church, in second place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South, head to Spalding United on Saturday and Long knows it will be another stern test.
He felt they deserved better fortune against Newcastle – a result which ended a run of five successive league wins. Church felt they had two efforts harshly ruled out – a Yusifu Ceesay header from a Willets’ nod-back which was called offside and a header from Josh March which was ruled out, apparently for a push.
Long felt both decisions could certainly have gone their way.
“It’s a tough job being a referee, or a linesman,” he said. “But I think sometimes they are looking for decisions to make when there aren’t any. It looked to me that Josh had scored a good goal and Yusifu came from an onside position.
“We’ve had a few decisions go against us in a couple of games but we hope it will even itself out towards the end of the season.”
After the trip to Spalding, Alvechurch return to Lye Meadow on Tuesday when they meet Midland League Premier Division side Lye Town in the Worcestershire Senior Urn quarter-finals.