IAN LONG says Alvechurch’s trip to Lye Town tomorrow (Saturday) will be the biggest game of the season so far – but that doesn’t make it a title decider.
The top two in the Midland League Premier Division meet at Stourbridge Road, with the Churchmen eight points clear, but the Black Country side having three games in hand.
Alvechurch boss Long suggests any of the top five will still fancy their chances in the title race but the focus, as ever, remains on what his squad can deliver.
“We’re in a good position and we’ve been on a good run but I think any one of five or six teams will still fell they can be champions,” said Long.
“Lye have had a good season, Coleshill are on a great run, Sporting Khalsa are more than capable of putting a run of wins together and though Westfields’ form has dipped they have got the players to beat anybody.
“We’re all looking forward to Saturday because it’s two of the top sides playing each other but there’s still an awful lot of football ahead, whatever the result.”
Long added: “Playing Lye is always a challenge. We know their players and they know ours.
“Luke Paskin and James Spray were both with us at Alvechurch and I played with Scott Gennard when I was at Rushall which, as I packed up playing 14 years ago, was a long time ago.
“We will need to be on our game from the first whistle.”
Alvechurch will expect a battle against Lye but Long is hoping the referee will be strong enough to halt what he felt was some overly physical tackles when the sides met in August in the league.
Top scorer Josh March was the victim and Long wants more protection for the 27-goal Golden Boot contender.
“I felt Lye targeted Josh in the league game,” he said.
“He was on the end of some bad tackles and I think the referee was a little bit lenient with some of them.
“Some of them were scandalous challenges and people have to remember these players have to go to work on Monday morning.
“The ref has got to be strong because I really believe they targeted Josh.”
Two weeks ago, they also met in the last 16 of the Polymac Packaging League Cup, with both sides making changes and Alvechurch winning through Connor Deards’ spectacular goal.
After having no game last weekend, Alvechurch were allowed a Saturday off and the break will heal a few bumps and bangs, leaving only midfielder Jack Cresswell as a fitness doubt.
On Tuesday, Alvechurch continue on the second front of their treble chase when they entertain Pelsall Villa in the league cup quarter-finals. The winners face a two-legged semi-final with Highgate United.