Toolstation NCEL Division 1 Play Off Semi Final
at the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground
AFC Emley (0) 1
Kieran Ryan 87
Penistone Church (0) 0
Admission £4.50. Programme £1.50. Attendance 463
With so much at stake, the game had a nervy edge to it at times, but nonetheless, both sides put on a great spectacle for all of those who'd turned out at the Pewits three sided ground, that they share with Emley Clarence Cricket Club.
The game was as tight as the final scoreline suggests and seemed to be heading for extra time, until the home side scored the only goal of the night inside the final three minutes.
The visitors had shaded the first half of the game possession wise and by virtue of their slightly higher goal scoring opportunities count, but Emley turned those statistics on their head after the break as the pendulum swung marginally towards the Upper Lane based team.
Of course, Emley have the mindbogglingly prolific strike Ash Flynn in their ranks, who went into tonight's game with a quite staggering total of 73 goals under his belt for the season, but tonight Tom Cadzow made a real fist of keeping a watchful on him, most of the time.
Ollie Fearon came close to opening the scoring (twice) for Penistone, with his second attempt, a header from Ash Ellis' right wing cross dropping agonizingly close to the left hand upright of Adam Lawlor's goal.
Tom Brennan proved to be a tower of strength at the other end as he intercepted the ball as Fearon attacked the Emley goal in tandem with Steve Kenworthy.
The home side regrouped and Ryan played the ball into the path of Jordan Townsend, who tried to lob Adam Rhodes from fifteen yards, but cleared the crossbar with his effort.
The game continued in it's end to end vein as Fearon broke clear in the goal area, but as he lined up his shot, Sam Jerome arrived just in the nick of time to whack the ball away from the danger zone.
Michael Tunnacliffe, the Pewits captain, tried to release Flynn with a long pass down the middle, but Rhodes punched the ball clear from off of the well marshaled strikers head before he could get a touch.
The crowd held their collective breath as Iwan Heeley delivered a teasing free kick deep into the Penistone area that Billington flicked into the path of Flynn, who with the goal at his mercy skied it over the bar and into the car park.
The visitors pushed forward again and it was squeaky bum time for Emley, as Jerome made a real mess of trying to clear a bouncing ball that dropped into the path of Kenworthy, but as the Church striker tried to bring it under control, Lawlor raced from his line and held on for grim life and the heart fluttering moment had gone.
HT: AFC Emley 0 v Penistone Church 0
I made a mental note not to make eye contact with him. Hard as nails or what!?
The tempo of the game picked up after the interval, but the players were probably running about more to try and keep warm.
Billington found himself unmarked early in the second half, but nodded the ball wide and Penistone were relieved to see the ball clear their crossbar twice in the space of a few minutes, when Rhodes turned Flynn's effort over and Jerome powered a header over with the Church keeper beaten all ends up.
Ash Ellis was unlucky to see the ball roll past the post after he'd picked up a cross from Danny Joynes and seen off a tackle.
Heeley pushed up from his right back berth and when Ryan met his cross with a thumping header it looked as though the deadlock had been broken, but the ball crashed back off the crossbar and Billington's close range strike from the rebound hit a Church defender on the line.
|"Me and my shadow!"|
Joynes and Fearon were battling to get into the home side's area from out on the left flank as the clock ticked down and an extra thirty minutes looked to be on the cards.
But then, Jordan Coduri adopted the guise of a shock troop and sprinted down the left flank. His pace took him past three Penistone players and his cross from the dead ball line found Ryan, who turned and cracked a great finish past Rhodes to give Emley the lead.
The late strike set up a grandstand finish and Penistone were unlucky when Sam Jerome cleared Lewis Dickinson's angled shot off the line and the visitors misery was compounded when Joynes netted what he thought was a dramatic late equaliser from Dickinson's cross, inside the final minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside... ouch!
FT: AFC Emley 1 v Penistone Church 0
All told, a great advert for NCEL Division 1 football, that could have gone either way.
It was a real shame that either side had to lose.
Both teams left the pitch in turn to thoroughly warranted generous applause.
Penistone Church will be gutted... but they also should be very proud of their efforts.
AFC Emley will now await the outcome of tomorrow night's second semi final at Birch Park to see who they will face in Saturday's make or break grand finale.
See you all at Bottesford in 24 hours time :-)