Alvechurch were seconds away from exiting this season’s FA Vase at the first hurdle, but having secured the relative luxury of a period of extra time then proceeded to take the host apart to secure what in the end was an emphatic win.
After the midweek management changes, new boss Dean Holtham
made six changes to the stsrting line-up, with three players (Ryan Hatfield
, Ryan Edmunds
and Omari Sterling-James
) making their debuts.
Alvechurch: Taylor, Hatfield (Luckie 87), Cameron, Smith, Humphries, Glaze (Spencer 69), Edmunds (Spink 69), McGrath, Wright, Sterling-James, Nash
unused subs: Judd, Cosgrave
Earlswood: Leech, Rowe (Turner 115), Ruck, Volante, Beauchamp (McGinley 16), Walton, Cross, Martin, Hewitt (Ager 79), Hall, Wills
unused subs: Prosser, Briggs
And it was a really positive first half of play, topped with a splendid 19th minute goal from Sterling-James that gave ‘Church a fully deserved half time lead.
was causing Earlswood problems down the right flank, and Joe Wright
was working hard to make effective links with his new strike partner, and overall the team looked to have a sharpness and edge that had been lacking in recent games.
Sterling-James’ opener came after a period of pressure from ‘Church that had seen a clutch of half chances spurned . The best of which was seeing ‘keeper Leech save one on one from Edmunds after the ‘Church man had raced through onto a defence splitting through ball. But Edmunds was provider for the goal with a pin-point free kick swung in from wide to find Sterling-James on the penalty spot, and the front man rose to meet the ball perfectly to plant a header past Leech.
Half Time: Earlswood Town 0 Alvechurch 1
The second half began badly for ‘Church as the home side rallied and seized the initiative in the game. In fact, so much so that within 10 minutes of the half they were ahead. The first goal on 54 minutes was a scrappy one after ‘Church failed to deal with a deep cross to the back post, and as the ball was nodded back Ryan Rowe connected fifteen yards out to stab the ball in through a crowd of players.
The equaliser spurred the home side on more than galvanising the visitors, and with ‘Church on the back foot, Earlswood grabbed a second in chaotic ciccumstances. Richard Taylor
inexplicably picked up the ball from a back pass to concede an indirect free kick barely ten yards out. And with eleven opponents lined up on the goal line, Sam Wills
rifled the ball into the roof of the net to give the home side a 56th minute lead.
‘Church were a shadow of their former selves in the second period, and as the game wore on it was looking increasing like another tale of FA Vase woe against lower league opposition. Toiling in the warm sunshine, Sterling-James shot high and wide on 76 after having time and space to size up his effort on goal, and substitute Jamie Spencer
had a goal chalked off on 78 after putting the ball in at the far post but from an offside position.
As the game moved into stoppage time it looked like Earlswood had done enough in the second half to carve out a place in the next round, especially when a glancing header from Joe Wright
squirmed agonisingly wide of the foot of the far post after a cross from Sterling-James. But, for them, a killer equaliser arrived soon after. Third minute of stoppage time, Sterling-James rifled the ball across the box, and Wright connected to divert the ball in from six yards, and ‘Church were off the hook, for now.
90 mins: Earlswood Town 2 Alvechurch 2
The additional thirty minutes belonged to Alvechurch, and the three goals scored emphasised,. Better late than never, the visitors’ superiority.
There was a let-off for ‘Church at the outset when a glancing header came back off the post and Adam Humphries
had to clear the ball from under his own bar, but this was a brief threat. Another disallowed goal for ‘Church just after when Spencer created an opening for Jazz Luckie
after skinning the Earlswood defence, and Wright went close on 97 after connecting with a McGrath free kick to head just over. But the breakthrough finally came two minutes before the end of the first period of extra time when Elliot Nash
made tracks down the left flank before producing a delicate through ball for the lively Jamie Spencer
to run onto before steering it past the stranded Leech.
It was all one-way traffic in the final fifteen minutes as ‘Church rubber-stamped the win. A Spencer shot on 107 minutes was palmed out by Leech and Wright followed up to slam the loose ball in from twelve yards to make it 4-2, and on 113 minutes a superb run from deep by Daley Cameron
opened up the Earlswood midfield and his defence splitting through ball found Wright who converted past Leech, on the run, to claim his hat trick.