IAN LONG admitted he has been questioning Alvechurch’s lack of character and leaders after a shock midweek defeat handed the Midland League Premier Division title initiative back to rivals Hereford.
An eventful Tuesday night trip to Boldmere St Michaels ended with a 1-0 defeat – after the Churchmen dropped striker Jordan Nadat for arriving late, had keeper Mat Sargeant sent off, hit the woodwork four times and then saw Nick Wright blaze a penalty over the target.
It meant Town have missed six key spot kicks this term, including Wright’s miss in a draw against Quorn earlier this month.
Manager Long was thoroughly disconsolate at the performance and admits the Churchman need to buck up their ideas after struggling to find any consistent form in recent weeks.
“I’m absolutely gutted. There was a real lack of any character and heads dropped visibly after we missed the penalty on Tuesday,” said Long. “That’s a major concern.
“I don’t associate that with my team and it really shocked me. It was like a morgue, it was completely silent.
“You need leaders, people to inspire each other on the pitch and show that belief. I couldn’t see it on Tuesday and that has to change, either by making changes from within the squad or looking elsewhere.
“We’ve missed Rich Huckfield, who has had work commitments, because he leads the side when things go against you. Chris Field is probably the only one that kept us going on Tuesday but it wasn’t good enough.
“In fairness, we haven’t been too consistent in the past seven or eight matches. We’ve not lost but there’s only been the games against Walsall Wood and Loughborough that I’ve been happy with.”
The Churchmen still lead the table by two points from Hereford, who have a game in hand. While the Bulls will be looking to reach the FA Vase final on Saturday, Alvechurch visit AFC Wulfrunians before they entertain Rocester on Tuesday and Heanor next Saturday in the countdown to an all-ticket top two showdown at Lye Meadow on Easter Monday.
Maximum points needed
Long says Alvechurch need maximum points to keep up the pressure on the Bulls before the sides go head-to-head, but they also need to sharpen up their finishing skills after scoring just six goals in the last seven matches.
Both goals in Saturday’s 2-1 home win against Walsall Wood came from set-pieces. James Spray marked his debut with a successful penalty after 19 minutes before Lee Harris equalised before half time, but Wright converted a stunning free kick in the 86th minute to put Alvechurch into top spot for the first time this season.
However, it was a tale of missed chances on Tuesday. Alvechurch were reduced to ten men when keeper Sargeant was dismissed for bringing down Mikes’ on-loan Redditch midfielder Simeon Maye – a decision Long described as ridiculous – but still had the better chances as Mark Smith hit the post and Nathaniel Waite scuffed an effort wide.
Wright then had the chance to net after a penalty was awarded, although Long admitted the referee’s decision was wrong, but the striker blazed over.
Instead, Roland Agbor grabbed the Boldmere winner, heading home the rebound after an Alex Fletcher shot had been parried by Paul Evans. The Mikes also ended with ten men after Joseph Ling was red-carded in the 45th minute.
“We were awful but still should have won the game,” said Long. “But you can’t keep missing chances like we’re doing. And if you can’t score from 12 yards with only the keeper to beat then you don’t deserve to win the league. That’s ten points we’ve let slip because we’ve missed penalties.”
New signing Spray, signed from Lye, would have been the penalty taker on Tuesday, only to have to be withdrawn because of a tight hamstring, so Wright took the kick which flew over.