A sending off. Six goals. The Home manager attacking one of Coalville’s players after the final whistle…
It’s fair to say this FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying tie was a humdinger.
Let’s begin at the start, shall we? First of all I was late leaving the house so the kind invitation via Twitter to meet a few Alvechurch fans in a local pub was unfortunately missed, although I did drive past the pub as I had to do a swift turn in the village after completely missing the ground’s entrance. To be fair to myself, it’s a very small, easy-to-miss entrance, as Church’s Lye Meadow Ground is plonked behind houses off a main road.
It’s a small ground with an uneven pitch and a welcoming club house which was showing the Donny v Rotherham game. After a quick pint, I positioned myself just left of the away dugout.
At this level, being so close to the pitch, you really do get to hear what goes on in the two dugouts. Alvechurch’s outspoken manager Ian Long always likes to air his opinion loudly in his West Midlands accent, while the Coalville gaffer also had a lot to say, including an argument with an Alvechurch fan. But petty arguments and officials-bashing was nothing compared to what was to come.
On the field, Church, who were missing their two-goal hero from the Cambridge City win, Babucar Sauane, were soon finding their opposition from a level above very tricky customers, and it wasn’t long before Coalville took the lead. A cross from the left wasn’t dealt with by the Church defence and Tom McGlinchey bundled home in front of the travelling fans from Leicestershire.
One became two when another excellent delivery from the left met Daniel Creaney’s head, giving Church ‘keeper Lewis Gwillians no chance.
Just after the break, in the 46th minute, there was a complete game changer as Coalville’s Kyle Dixon was given a straight red card, much to his chagrin. It was the catalyst for the home side to capitalise, and that’s exactly what they did. There was a renewed energy about them and after forcing two fine saves from Ravens ‘keeper Matthew Coton, he was eventually beaten by a floating header from Church defender Jamie Willets, which he met from a free kick on the left and which arced perfectly into the top right corner.
This should have been the start of the comeback, and sensing this, I moved my position to see the Church onslaught. But it never came.
Instead, having weathered the Alvechurch storm, Coalville grabbed a third, and in some style. Creaney latched onto a stray pass, saw Gwilliams off his line and, from just inside the Church half, sent a curling, lofted attempt goalwards which landed in the empty net much to the ‘keeper’s embarrassment and Creaney’s joy. In fairness, he had every right to milk the celebration. It was an excellently executed opportunistic goal.
From that point on, Coalville never looked back. Despite being a man down, they scored a further two goals – Creaney completed his hat-trick with a low drive into the left-hand corner of Gwilliams’ net, and then, in stoppage time, McGlinchey got his second with a rising drive into the opposite side.
That was the end of the goal action, but what followed was unsavoury to say the least. Church defender Jamie Ashmore attempted to clear his lines and made contact with a Coalville player on the follow through. This sparked a commotion, as tempers spilled over and insults were exchanged. But it also served as the catalyst for a bigger brawl upon the ref’s final whistle.
Unhappy with some of the Coalville players’ conduct during the recent fracas, Church boss Ian Long headed straight for a Coalville player and began to tell him in no uncertain words or actions what he thought of him. It kicked off a mass brawl which involved every player, members of coaching staff and probably the bar staff! It was a sad and unprofessional end to a cracking game.
I didn’t see any problems amongst supporters as they mingled over beers, but for me it was time to head back home.
I now follow Coalville into the Third Qualifying Round in which they go to Trophy holders York City in what will be a really stern test for them.
Not so long ago York were a league side, and have a ground worthy of league football, so it’ll be a big transition from Alvechurch’s quaint, cosy little home. But it’s another new ground for me so I shall look forward to November 25.
Images from the match