IAN LONG admits runaway leaders Basford United remain the team to beat in the Evo-Stik Northern South title race – but his Alvechurch side are the ones most likely to do it.
After a frustrating Christmas period – with four games called off from the last six – Church head into Saturday’s trip to Chasetown lying in fifth place.
However, only three points separate Long’s men from second placed Bedworth and, although unbeaten Basford have a whopping 24-point advantage over Alvechurch, the Nottingham side have played five matches more.
“There are still 23 league games to play and a lot can happen,” said Long. “We want to win the league.
“If we win our games in hand we will be nine points behind and it’s not insurmountable. We will need other teams to do us a favour – and fair play to Basford they have dealt with every challenge – but we want to keep pushing.
“All we can do is take one game at a time. We feel we are best placed to challenge Basford.”
After a goalless Boxing Day draw at fellow high-flyers Bedworth, Alvechurch needed a last-minute goal from Dave Bellis to edge out Romulus 2-1 at Lye Meadow on New Year’s Day.
Tom Turton’s penalty, awarded after a foul on Josh March, had given Church the lead on minutes as the hosts dominated the first half, only for relegation-battling Roms to peg them back and level through Cameron Lee.
It was a reminder, said Long, that there are no easy games, regardless of league position, and that it is proving to be a big difference to last season’s endeavours in the Midland League Premier Division.
“Every three points in this league is an achievement,” said Long. “Last season, we could get a lead and ease off the gas against some of the lower teams but you can’t do that in the Evo-Stik.
“You need to just look at the results to see that, with Peterborough Sports starting the day at the bottom of the table and then winning at Stamford. Romulus came into our game with seven points from nine and we had five from nine.
“You have to keep going to the last minute and we’ve shown that a few times this season. It shows our spirit, the will to win, the fitness level and the belief that we will come through.
“We battered Romulus in the first half and although they were better in the second half they didn’t really test Charlie Price in goal. We looked the more likely to score and Bellis showed great feet to create the chance and then great composure to finish.”
Nathan Waite is set to return to Church ranks this weekend at the Scholars to face one of his former sides, with the striker having had three games on loan at Sporting Khalsa to boost his fitness.
Midfielder Babucar Sauane is still absent, having travelled to the Gambia to get married. Long revealed he would have featured before Christmas, only for the games to be called off, after recovering from the groin injury which had ruled him out since the start of November, but now Sauane is expected to return at the end of January.