Emley’s valiant performance on a challenging pitch secured them a replay on a Tuesday night against Widnes, a team from the Northern Premier League, following a 1-1 draw in Cheshire during the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round.
Emley proved themselves more than equal to their higher-league opponents and might even feel they could have secured their spot in the 2nd qualifying round without needing a replay. Nevertheless, the replay is a just outcome.
The match was a physical encounter, with players from both sides feeling the strain. It took some time to adapt as both teams tried to predict the unpredictable behaviour of the pitch. At times, the ball bounced high, while at others, it barely left the ground. Emley had an early sight at goal, but Iyrwah Gooden’s lob failed to trouble the keeper.
Next, Walker attempted a shot, but it went wide as Emley aimed to gain the upper hand. Gooden had another opportunity, but his shot was saved by the Widnes goalkeeper. The hosts then had their first genuine chance, but despite some excellent build-up play, the shot was sent well over the crossbar.
Emley suffered a setback as Joe Kenny came off injured and was replaced by Alex Metcalfe in the midfield. Metcalfe made an immediate impact with some solid tackles, setting up the next chance. A precise pass into Clegg allowed him to steady himself and take a good shot, which was deflected for a corner, but the defence handled it well. Both sides had a couple of shots blocked by the defences, which remained dominant as the first half ended.
HALF TIME | Widnes 0-0 Emley
The first half lacked genuine quality, and Emley probably had a slight edge in terms of chances created. However, Widnes were more familiar with the pitch, and Emley was aware that they would improve in the second half.
It was the Yorkshiremen who struck early in the second half, barely two minutes in. A well-constructed move saw Gooden outfox the defence before delivering a sublime pass to Donae Lawrence, who expertly curled a low shot into the bottom corner. He celebrated with the ecstatic Emley fans.
This goal seemed to invigorate the hosts as they enjoyed their best period of the game. Lambton was called into action to thwart a one-on-one chance, but he was powerless to stop the subsequent opportunity, resulting in a Widnes equaliser. After creating space on their right, a perfectly timed cross met the head of Van Wyk, who nodded it beyond Lambton.
Emley made another change, this time due to injury. Walker was replaced by Norcross. Widnes carved out the next chance, but somehow, the striker managed to send the ball wide.
As the game became more physical and chances grew scarcer, it turned into a test of determination as both teams struggled to create opportunities. Emley made another substitution to inject fresh energy into the game, with Walshaw, who had recently had a shot saved, being replaced by Jerome. Then came a potentially contentious moment in the game. While Emley attacked down the right, the ball appeared to strike a Widnes player’s hand. Emley players and fans all appealed, but the referee allowed play to continue, only to later award a free kick to Widnes in a dangerous position, much to the disappointment of the Claret and Blue supporters.
In the final 10 minutes, both teams continued to battle. Widnes arguably had the best chance to seal the victory with several good opportunities – one went over, another went wide, and Lambton was forced into a crucial save to maintain parity.
However, Emley managed to hold on during the six additional minutes of stoppage time and earned applause from their substantial contingent of travelling supporters.
The fate of the tie will be decided in Emley on Tuesday evening, played on natural grass.
FULL TIME | Widnes 1-1 Emley