Alvechurch boss Long baffled by TV decision as Church look for miracle

Alvechurch FC players celebrate with their fans after reaching the FA Cup First Round for the very first time (Ian Macvie)

By Alec McQuarrie

Alvechurch boss Ian Long will cherish the moment his players make their FA Cup first round debut against Cheltenham – even if the TV cameras won’t be there to witness it.

After stunning Pitching In Northern Premier League’s Worksop Town 3-2, Step 3 Alvechurch are now the lowest-ranked side still left in the competition.

This is the furthest The Church have ever been in the FA Cup and it would be one of the shocks of the century if they came away from Whaddon Road still in the second round hat.

But ITV are set to show Wrexham vs Oldham Athletic on Sunday, which baffled Long – who is in his second spell as Alvechurch manager – ahead of his side’s big day.

He said: “We’re obviously disappointed we didn’t get a televised game. I understand they’re probably looking for a cup shock.

“There’s a good argument for the other games like Bracknell against a big club like Ipswich and Hereford, a Step 2 side, against Portsmouth.

“I’ve got absolutely no problem with some of those fixtures, but it’s the Wrexham v Oldham one that’s a little disappointing.

“They’re not short of a few quid and it’s an all-National League game they could have on BT Sport. That one leaves a little bit of a sour taste.”

But if the Pitching In Southern Prem Central side can pull off the unthinkable, there’s no doubt where the television crews would be heading.

“Obviously we’re massive underdogs,” said Long. “There’s no pressure on us whatsoever. We’ve played our FA Cup final really against Worksop.

“So we’ve just got to enjoy the occasion, savour the moment. It’s only the second time in my career I’ve managed to get to this stage of the FA Cup and I’m 47 years of age.

“We’ve only got one player in the whole dressing room that got to the First Round proper before, Ash Carter.”

Worksop were on a hot streak of 11 wins in a row before they travelled to Lye Meadow for the Fourth Qualifying Round and against all odds found themselves 3-0 down after 48 minutes.

Two late goals from the visitors gave Long a fright but Alvechurch hung on to the delight of over 1,000 jubilant home supporters.

“I was terrified,” admitted Long. “We dominated the game to be fair and well worth our 3-0 lead. You just felt the momentum was with them in those last couple of minutes once they got one.

“We were wobbling a little bit but it would’ve been a travesty if we hadn’t come through the tie.

“It was mayhem when the final whistle went. We had a load of the kids teams down there and they all invaded the pitch. All good natured and great scenes.

“I had a skinful afterwards. I came round about Wednesday. We’ve got quite a young squad and they’re quite professional. They don’t really drink that much beer to be fair.

“But me and my coaching staff got on it and had a good night.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/