Alvechurch FC are in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest ever FA cup tie. In the days before penalty shoot-outs the tie with Oxford City in 1971-72, went to 5 replays before The Church came out on top with a 1-0 win. This record will never be beaten.
Their ground, Lye Meadow, is on the edge of the village just off the main Redditch Road and a stones throw from the M42. The team has played at the same ground since the late 50s, a move which sparked a great period in the club's history. This included an appearance in the third round of the FA Cup, a league club scalp, Exeter City, and the aforementioned marathon match with Oxford City. Heath Hayes cannot match Alvechurch for history but they do celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. Relegation, however, is probably not the best way to celebrate a half century.
Lye Meadow boasts a single covered seating area opposite a clubhouse and changing block. The rest of the ground has hard-standing around the playing surface although there is evidence of a former stand behind the village end goal area. The concrete part of the stand still exists and seems to be stepped upwards away from the clubhouse side of the ground. this was probably to counteract the slope of the playing surface which falls away both from the stand side towards the clubhouse and from the village end to the car park end.
I can't comment too much on the actual game for a couple of reasons. Firstly in the first half, there wasn't too much to get excited about and, secondly they had sold out of programmes so I had no idea about player names.
What I can report is that it was 8.15 pm when I tweeted about the first shot on target ( a 7.45 ko). When it did come, however, it was a good effort. A well struck Heath Hayes volley equally well turned away by the very vocal Alvechurch keeper.
Just a minute later though, the keeper's fine work was to count for nothing. Another attack down the Hayes right flank lead to a chipped cross into the home area and the totally umarked number 7 volleyed home from 8 yards out. A nice goal.
The goal did spark some action from the home side and, five minutes after going behind, they did finally call the away keeper into action, albeit a relatively comfortable save. So, 0-1 at half-time and plenty to do for the home team. Alvechurch emerged for the second half a good few minutes early and had to wait for Hayes and the officials to come out. There was a double substitution for the home team who switched to a more attacking line-up, seemingly playing with 3 up front.
However, just a few minutes later, Alvechurch sprang the Hayes offside trap and the number 10 ran through to finish with ease past the stranded keeper. 1-1 and game on.
It was at this point that the first signs of an undercurrent were seen in the game. At one Heath Hayes corner the referee had to stop the game to speak to a couple of players who were grappling with each other. One or two more meaty challenges were going in and a couple of players were getting noticeably irritated with both their opponents and the referee.
As it happened, I actually missed the games biggest talking point. With about 10 minutes to go I and nipped into the clubhouse to use the facilities. When I came back out the game had been stopped, all of the players were in the centre circle, there were numerous face-offs happening and a Heath Hayes player was flat out in the middle of the pitch. A quick chat to a couple of locals revealed that the Hayes player had already been on the ground after a fair challenge but, while he was on all fours, an Alvechurch player had kneed him in the face. A fracas had ensued and the officials were in conference, trying to sort out what had happened. The locals assured me that, if it had been seen by the officials, a red card was going to come out. Sure enough, after issuing a yellow to one home player the referee called over the home number 14 and brandished a red. There was no argument from any of the players, so I can assume that what the locals had told me had been seen by the officials.
Somewhat surprisingly there were no more incidents, no retribution handed out to any Hayes players. What was also surprising is that the 10 men of Alvechurch continued to hold their own and possibly looked more threatening on the break than when they had a full compliment. However, there was to be no more scoring and the match finished all square at 1-1. Probably a fair result over the 90 minutes.
Alvechurch - @alvechurch1st
Heath Hayes - @heathhayes1965