IAN LONG has challenged Alvechurch to prepare for every match like a cup final to turn their dream of successive promotions into reality.
Church still face playing 14 games in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South – a third of the season – in eight weeks, starting with the trip to fellow promotion-chasers Cleethorpes Town on Saturday.
The clash on Humberside – where Alvechurch lost in an FA Vase last-16 tie two years ago – pits two of the league’s form teams head-to-head, with Cleethorpes unbeaten in nine league games and Long’s men undefeated in seven.
Alvechurch occupy second place in the table and Cleethorpes are down in tenth, having been docked 12 points for fielding an ineligible player, but with the games in hand to be realistic play-off contenders.
Long accepts it will be a big challenge but added every fixture between now and May will be a huge test.
“We’ve got 14 cup finals now to go and win promotion,” said Long. “Every game is a massive game. It’s a cliche but we have to take each game as it comes.
“People outside the club have been telling me ‘you’re almost there’ but nobody within the club thinks that. There’s too much football still to be played. There’s no way we can take our foot off the pedal.
“We’ve lost one league game in 18 which is a fantastic record but we’ve got to keep that record going and if we do that then hopefully our rivals will run out of games to catch us.
“Cleethorpes, I’m sure, have got aspirations of promotion themselves. If they had not had 12 points deducted they would be one of our biggest rivals for automatic promotion but they will still feel they can get into the play-offs.”
Alvechurch will be without the unavailable Tom Turton and Jordan Nadat so Dave Bellis and Aaron Lloyd are likely to come into contention in midfield and attack respectively.
Saturday’s game signals the start of a busy spell of five matches in nine days across three competitions for Church.
They entertain Gresley on Tuesday before heading to Heath Hayes for a much-delayed JW Hunt Cup first-round tie – postponed four times already – on Thursday. The winners will be at home to Wolves Casuals.
Next Saturday they head to Newcastle Town on league duty before hosting West Bromwich Albion in the quarter-finals of the Birmingham Senior Cup on Monday. The winners will be away to Stourbridge in the last four.