Amateur Football: AFC Emley produced early fireworks in eight goal thriller
A LATE strike denied AFC Emley maximum points as visitors Shirebrook snatched a 4-4 draw at the Welfare Ground.
There were plenty of early fireworks in the Northern Counties East League Division I clash as Emley made a strong start., but while the game was great entertainment for the neutral, Emley boss Darren Hepworth was left frustrated that his side had failed to take all three points.
Hepworth was missing key defenders Sean Hazelden, Judd Colley and Anthony Leech and named a 3-5-2 formation and while they dealt with the visitors threat in early stages they were punished for some defensive errors in the second half.
Emley dominated matters in the opening stages and had two good chances in the first 10 minutes to take the lead.
The first fell to Dean Wharam, who raced onto a through ball by Nathan Tayo before chipping the Shirebrook keeper Jason White, but his effort went over the bar.
Mark Stuart went close after being set up by Wharam, but fired across the face of goal.
The home side were a goal up soon after as David Heagney notched his 20th of the season.
Brad Dowling then made a surging run down the left flank before delivering a dangerous ball into the six yard box, Mark Stuart miscued his attempt at goal but his effort fell kindly for Heagney who volleyed into the roof of the net.
It was mostly one way traffic as Emley played some impressive football with Heagney, Wharam and Scott Holt all carving out decent opportunities to score.
At the other end of the field Adam Valente was called upon to make a terrific reaction save from Luke Thomas who diverted a free kick on target.
Emley doubled their lead on 32 minutes as pressure from Heagney forced a defensive error with the ball running free to Dowling who smashed the ball home from outside the box with an unstoppable drive.
Shirebrook grabbed an unlikely goal against the run of play as Julian Topliss dispossessed Nick Reid before controlling the ball and slotting it past Valente to make it 2-1 on 35 minutes.
Emley began the second half well and Wharam was again in the thick of things.
The striker took the ball round White but found his angle just too tight and rolled the ball agonisingly across the face of goal.
The visitors responded positively and Emley had a let off as a dipping volley from Lewis Jackson dropped onto the bar with Valente beaten.
Soon after the scores were level with Topliss breaking down the left wing and crossing to Brendan Sweeney who netted from close range.
Before the restart Wharam reacted angrily to a comment made by a Shirebrook player with both him and Nathan Tayo cautioned by referee Jane Simms.
The incident clearly rattled Emley and Shirebrook sensed this pushing forward in search of another goal.
Pete Stubley went close for Shirebrook but Valente was alert enough to come out and block his effort but the ball fell back to him with Max Joice on hand this time to block his second effort.
A defensive error soon after allowed Topliss in to score his second of the afternoon to make it 3-2 to Shirebrook.
To their credit Emley responded quickly to get back on level terms.
A free kick set up Holt who crossed from the right flank into to Wharam who cracked home a stunning volley 15 yards out giving White no chance.
Play was now swinging from end to end and with the clock running down it looked like Emley had scored a winner on 90 minutes.
Heagney was in an unfamiliar position tracking back in defence to win the ball back before delivering a ball up the flank to Holt.
The wideman squared for substitute debutant Adam Powell who laid the ball off for his cousin Chris Wdowczyk who drove home from the edge of the box.
Bouyed with momentum from regaining the lead Emley continued to press when with hindsight it might have been more prudent to defend their lead, but Wharam almost wrapped up the game with driving run and well struck shot that was saved by White.
Instead Emley then conceded a free kick in the dying seconds of injury time which was pumped into a packed penalty area and flicked in by Grant Hackett much to the delight of the visiting bench who were more than happy to take a draw from a game that they looked out of 2-0 down after half an hour.
While boss Hepworth will be pleased with the quality of the goals scored and chances created he will need to shore up his backline ahead of the Sheffield Cup clash with Stocksbridge tonight at the Welfare Ground (7.45).
Emley: Valente, Reid, Tayo, Joice, Dowling, Wdowczyk, Holt, Stuart (Powell 69), Heagney, Wharam, Armitage (74).ŠSubs not used:Š Horton, Brock, Ryan