IAN LONG insists all the pressure is on opponents Hereford as Alvechurch prepare for the biggest game in two generations tonight (Thursday).
The top two in the Midland League Premier Division will meet at a sold-out Lye Meadow, with the table-topping Churchmen two points clear of the Bulls, but Hereford have a game in hand.
A crowd of 1,500 will watch the clash, the biggest attendance since Church were among the Midlands’ non-league elite in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on our lads,” said Long.
“We’re a village club, they’re a city club. The pressure is on them.
“All the expectations are on them. They have the tradition, they have been in the Football League and made history in the FA Cup. They have the fanbase and the resources that the rest of us don’t have.”
Alvechurch made it five wins in a row after late goals from Jordan Nadat and Karl Edwards accounted for hosts Highgate United 2-0 on Tuesday evening, while Hereford edged out visitors Walsall Wood 2-1.
Long accepts Thursday’s match will be one of huge importance, but not a title decider. With Church still having six fixtures to play after Thursday and the Bulls seven, the Church boss still feels there is plenty of football to play.
“Thursday night is a big game, it’s a significant game in that one side will have it taken out of their hands, relying on other teams doing them a favour, and one team will have it very much in their own hands,” said Long.
“But whatever happens there will still be a lot of mileage in the season and in the title race. We’ll have six games left and Hereford will have seven. I still think there will be twists and turns.”
Both teams have face tension-filled games in recent weeks, but Long suggested the Bulls had been riding their fortune with refereeing decisions, notably a disallowed ‘goal’ for Dunkirk at the weekend and their count of penalties.
“Hereford do seem to be getting the decisions when it matters. Those decisions could have a huge impact on the season,” he added.
Midfielder Leigh Downing is ruled out of Thursday’s game after being hurt against Heanor 12 days ago, but defender Luke Paskin and Mark Smith had run-outs against Highgate.
Zac Foster, Chris Field, Sam Williams, who were rested in midweek, also come back into contention.