AFC EMLEY slipped to their first defeat under manager Darren Hepworth after being outplayed by Shirebrook, who won the Northern Counties East Division I clash 2-1.
The Mansfield outfit, who reversed the defeat inflicted on them by Emley back in December, have boosted their squad with a string of signings under their new manager Rudy Funk.
Emley, in contrast, looked fatigued as they played their third game in six days and were unable to find the quick attacking football that enabled them to defeat Hemsworth and Barton last week.
The visitors did make the brighter start to the game and an early free kick from Mark Stuart tested Ed Eley in the Shirebrook goal and, soon after, Karl Simpkins went close with a header from a Teo Ringrose cross.
But the home side began playing to their strengths with the defence snuffing out most of Emley’s attacking threat and Ringrose and Stuart were restricted to long-range efforts which went wide of the mark.
Matthew Varley had Shirebrook’s best chance when he connected with a deep cross, but his header was dealt with well at the near post by Mick Clark.
Varley continued to be a threat to Emley with his long throw-ins – he regularly hit the Emley penalty area from inside his own half, relieving the pressure on his defence and putting the pressure on Emley’s in the process.
Emley finally breached the Shirebrook defence on the half hour mark and it was Ringrose who started and finished the move.
The winger flicked the ball past his marker with a back-heel playing in Kenworthy, who then delivered a perfectly-weighted through ball to allow Ringrose to slot the ball past Eley.
The visitors were unable to build on their lead as Shirebrook responded.
Mark Robinson played in Simon Johnson, who hit a well struck shot on the half volley which was blocked by Emley captain Judd Colley.
Minutes later Johnson did grab an equaliser, firing home through a crowded penalty area after the ball was cleared from a corner – Ringrose got a touch to the ball on the goal line but was unable to keep it out.
Emley started the second half positively with Eley being tested by a Stuart free-kick and a long-range effort from Marc Townsend, but it was to be Shirebrook who took the lead on 50 minutes.
The dangerous Lyall won his side a penalty after his cross caught Josh Ingham on the arm and strike partner Johnson grabbed his second goal of the game when wrong-footing Clark from the spot.
Emley got little change out of Shirebrook back line and Clark was called upon to save at Lyall’s feet then, later, to save a curling effort from Darren Bettison.
Johnson, Bettison and Jay Whalley were all booked by referee Nicholas Mason for the home side withŠ Shirebrook boss Funk replacing Johnson – perhaps to prevent the player from picking up a second yellow card – and opted for a more defensive 4-5-1 formation which served to frustrate Emley further.
Hepworth sent on Max Joice and Brad Dowling down the flanks, but neither could inspire an Emley revival as the game petered out.
Ugly scenes followed as players from both sides clashed heading to the dressing room after the final whistle, which stemmed from Whalley feigning an injury and attempting to get Leech booked late on in the game.
Few Emley players will have been happy with their performances as all too often the ball was given away in the middle of the park as passes fell short.
Colley made some decent blocks at the back and keeper Clark pulled off some important saves, while Ringrose was Emley’s most positive player and took his first-half goal well.Š
AFC Emley: Clark, Leech, Tayo, Ingham, Colley, Hazelden, Stuart, Townsend (Joice), Kenworthy (Wharam), Simpkins (Dowling), Ringrose. Subs not used:Š Westney, Washington.