ALVECHURCH’S fairytale run in the FA Cup came to an end at the second round stage after former Church man Josh March scored the winner in a 2-1 defeat against League One side Forest Green Rovers in front of the BBC cameras.
Jed Abbey’s stunning free-kick had drawn Church level in the second period only for March to strike minutes later after Connor Wickham’s penalty had opened the scoring whilst the home side had Dom Bernard sent off at The New Lawn.
Church, who play in the seventh tier, were denied a place in the third round for just the second time in their history by a side 92 places above them in the football pyramid and were cheered on by more than 1,164 travelling supporters in Gloucestershire.
The third-tier side dominated the ball for the first quarter of an hour as Church made several crucial blocks and interceptions to keep the scores level.
However, Forest Green were awarded a penalty when Aurio Teixeira was deemed to have fouled former Church man Josh March in the box.
And former Premier League striker Wickham duly dispatched the resulting spot kick on 24 minutes as Dan Jezeph dived to his right.
The visitors first meaningful effort on goal came just before the half-hour mark as Tom Edge fired well wide of the target before Myles Peart-Harris drilled an effort wide at the other end.
Neither side were able to carve out a clear-cut chance in the remainder of the half as Church went into the break behind by a single goal.
However, Ian Long’s side drew level on 49 minutes when Abbey curled a sumptuous free-kick into the top left corner of the goal from the edge of the penalty to stun the home side.
Parity was restored for all of two minutes as Forest Green retook the lead when March stooped to head home Harry Boyes’ cross at the back post.
And the home side were denied a third goal when Jezeph made an excellent save to keep out Boyes’ driven effort.
Church rode their luck soon after as Peart-Harris’s header came back off the left-hand post before Wickham somehow fired the rebound wide.
And Jezeph then made a sensational fingertip save to keep out March before he pushed away another dangerous cross from the same player as Church battled to stay in the contest.
At the other end, the visitors were awarded a free-kick 25-yards from goal with Abbey unable to repeat his set-piece heroics from earlier in the half as he curled the ball wide of the target.
Alvechurch’s hopes of pulling off another upset were given a boost on 72 minutes when Rovers’ Bernard was sent off after he picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Danny Waldron.
Church were on top for much of the final quarter but were unable to break through a stubborn Forest Green defence before Jezeph made another great stop at full stretch to tip Corey O’Keeffe’s free-kick over the bar.
The final whistle sounded to bring an end to Church’s magical FA Cup run, having dumped League One Cheltenham Town out of the competition in the previous round, Forest Green proved a step too far despite a valiant effort from Long’s men.