By Liam Moakes Thursday 06 September 2012 Updated: 06/09 15:08
NEW-LOOK Alvechurch were denied a deserved share of the spoils at early season Midland Alliance pace-setters Stratford Town as the hosts snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory on Tuesday.
Two Town goals in the final seven minutes was cruel luck on Dean Holtham's side, who looked on course to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Stratford.
However, the performance was a huge tonic for Church and they will look to take the positives from it into tomorrow's visit to Ellesmere Rangers as they bid to climb the table.
Alvechurch have already benefited from Holtham's links to Birmingham City as the club's community development manager and they fielded a number of youthful City players who performed impressively.
It was Town who made the brighter start though and created the first chance when Luke Edwards headed goalwards from a corner but Richard Taylor tipped over the bar.
Jamie Bailey went close with a header of his from the resulting corner before Church gradually began to settle and pose a threat themselves.
Omari Sterling-James boasted electric pace and plenty of skill and posed a threat all night for the home side.
He first showed his threat in the 20th minute when seizing on a misunderstanding between Harry Donaghy and Edwards to race clear but his low cross evaded everybody and ran to safety.
Stratford keeper Brendan Hazlett then had to make three excellent saves - twice from Joe Wright and once from Sterling-James - to ensure the game remained goalless at the break.
Aaron Forde almost got the second half off to the perfect start for Stratford but his goalbound effort was deflected wide after Tony Robinson did well to create the opening.
However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 50th minute and inevitably Sterling-James was involved.
Once again his pace caused problems as he broke clear down the right and he did well to find Wright in the middle and the former Stratford man blasted home from six yards.
Town showed a good determination to get back on terms and increased the tempo in an attempt to put the visitors under pressure.
With time beginning to tick away it looked as though it was going to take a piece of individual brilliance to get them back on level terms and that is exactly what Chris Lait provided with seven minutes left.
Latching on to a ball down the left, he jinked inside to switch on to his right foot before letting fly with an absolute screamer from the edge of the box which rocketed past Taylor into the top corner.
The quality of the strike gave Town the momentum to go and push for the winner and it arrived in the final minute when Lait showed great perseverance to win possession before finding Robinson who beat Taylor with a low drive.
There was good news for Alvechurch on Saturday as they won a thrilling FA Vase first qualifying round tie at Earlswood Town 5-2 after extra time.
The visitors took an 11th minute lead when Sterling-James headed home a free kick but Town levelled ten minutes into the second half when Andy Rowe scored from a free kick and just four minutes later Earls were ahead.
The referee deemed the ball had been passed back to the keeper by an Alvechurch man which gave Earls a free kick close to goal, which was fed to Sam Wills who fired high into the net.
However, Wright hammered home an equaliser in the fourth added minute of five to force an additional 30 minutes.
Wills went close to restoring the hosts' advantage after an effort came back off the bar but his effort deflected over and gradually Alvechurch gained the upper hand.
Jamie Spencer put them ahead in the 107th minute and two goals in the space of four minutes from Wright, who completed his hat-trick, saw the visitors through.
Alvechurch will face another Midland Combination Premier Division side when they host Walsall Wood in the second qualifying round on September 15.
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