IAN LONG suggests former captain Sam Williams could have a role to play in Alvechurch’s push for honours this term after the midfielder returned to action for the first time in nearly two years.
Williams, part of the Church team which finished Midland Alliance runners-up to Hereford in 2016, was part of a ‘mix and match’ team which featured nine changes in Tuesday night’s Worcestershire Senior Urn clash with visitors Lye Town.
Williams plus fellow veteran Chris Field, who boasts an impressive CV including Stourbridge and Lye, and Tipton Town’s Paul Henley lined up alongside half a dozen youth-teamers including Ben Tilbury, Simon Chin, Callum Debar and reserve team defender Jack Yarwood.
Despite bowing out 3-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, Long was delighted with how such an unfamiliar team coped with a robust Lye side. The manager made the changes to ensure the more regular players had a break before the demanding Christmas and new year programme.
Williams, manager’s player of the year in his season at Church, left to join Walsall Wood in the summer of 2016 but then injury left him on the sidelines. He has joined a few training sessions with Church and he came through 80 minutes on Tuesday, with Long keen to keep him involved.
“Sam hadn’t played for 18 months but he has got the quality to play at this level,” said Long. “He showed that when we were at Tividale together. He is never rushed. He creates his own time and space.”
The manager also praised the youth team contingent who stepped up, especially after they had played the previous evening for the U18s. Defender Chin, in particular, impressed.
“He had played 90 minutes on Monday in a big game for the youth team and then he played 90 minutes for the first team,” said Long. “You could understand if his performance suffered but he was superb.”
Meanwhile, Long warned his Alvechurch players to ignore the league standings when they welcome Kidsgrove Athletic to Lye Meadow in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South on Saturday.
The Church boss admits he is baffled how Kidsgrove lie fourth from bottom and will tell his players need to produce a top performance to get the points.
“I watched Kidsgrove at Romulus earlier in the season and I was impressed,” said Long. “I can’t believe they are fourth from bottom. I certainly won’t be taking them for granted and I will make sure that’s the message that gets through to the players. Stamford came to us in mid-table and gave us a hammering so that’s a warning.
“With Anthony Malbon and Lee Cropper up front, they’ve got a real goal threat.”
Church remain second in the table after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Spalding United, with Josh March converting from a Danny Dubidat flick on the stroke of half time.
Long admits Church have been misfiring in front of goal in recent weeks. Dubidat is suspended this weekend but Luke Yates is back in contention after having 90 minutes for both the reserves on Saturday, scoring twice, and the first team on Tuesday after his rib injury.
“I was moaning a few weeks ago we were conceding too many goals and now we have had three clean sheets in a row,” said Long. “But, at the other end, we’ve not been as free-scoring as we were earlier in the season.”
On Tuesday, Alvechurch begin their defence of the JW Hunt Cup when they head to Heath Hayes in a rearranged first round tie. The winners are at home to Wolves Casuals in round two.
Church will also be at home in the Birmingham Senior Cup second round to Rushall Olympic, managed by ex-Redditch boss Liam McDonald, after the latter dumped out Coventry City in midweek.