AFC Emley 3-0 Shirebrook Town
With more downs than ups, this was probably the high-water mark so far this season for Joe Howson’s evolving Emley side.
With only one win since the turn of the year, the visit of play off contenders Shirebrook Town was expected to be a tough test. In the end, desire and work rate from the first to the last earned the hosts a 3-0 win.
From the kick off, Emley were straight into Shirebrook territory. As the clock ticked to it’s first full minute, the ball broke to Jordan Townend on the right wing whose cross turned into a shot when Joel Harrison couldn’t quite make contact with his head but he did enough to take the ‘keeper out of the running as Townend’s cross bounced in at the far post.
Less than 15 minutes later, Emley doubled the advantage. A couple of corners left the Shirebrook defence at sixes and sevens and, from the second set-piece, a mini-goal mouth scramble saw Curtis Roberts pop the ball in from 6 yards out.
For the rest of the half, a midfield battle ensued but Hepworth Group Man of the Match Townend was equal to the task with support from captain Josh Ingham and Harrison. Emley carved out a couple of half chances but Shirebrook were frustrated anytime they approached the Emley box to keep the score at 2-0 at the break.
After the interval, Emley expected the visitors to return fired up from their half-time roasting - possibly audible at the top of the cloud shrouded mast. But it was striker Alex Slack who put the game beyond Shirebrook three minutes later.
Leading the front line for the first time at Emley, Slack received a sweet through ball from young right back Will Alderton before twisting and turning past two opposition defenders and sinking a cool finish past a helpless Shirebrook ‘keeper.
As well as winning the midfield battles and restricting Shirebrook when on the attack, Emley continued to press for a fourth with half-chances abound for Slack, Roberts, Bullivant and substitute Jackson.
It was 80 minutes before Shirebrook had their first meaningful chance. The ball squirmed out of ‘keeper Max Dearnley’s grip and fell to the forward who’s shot cannoned over the bar off an Emley defender desperate to keep the clean sheet.
With the rain returning and the pitch really starting to cut up, Emley went into game-management mode and saw the game out for a much deserved 3-0 win.
This was only two games across the NCEL that survived the weather which brought a bumper crowd of 200 who saw a complete performance from Emley.