Emley fans roar team into quarter-finals of FA Vase in biggest crowd since return to village

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​Magnificent Emley are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase for the first time since 1988 with a superb battling performance to see off Whickham 2-0 at a raucous Fantastic Media Welfare Ground.

In a keenly and evenly contested game, it was Richard Tracey's Pewits who came out on top to book their place in the last eight with two goals in the last quarter, writes Martin Eastwood.

Emley are making quite a habit of scoring goals at the shed end in the second half of games, 10 of the last 12 goals at home have been netted in front of Emley's partisan fans at that end and 11 of Emley's goals in the Vase have all come at this end too, with Heaton Stannington, West Didsbury & Chorlton, Charnock Richard and now Whickham all victims of second half showings.

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This game, while not one that will rank high of any technical football lover's shortlist had plenty off aggression, determination and from Emley's point of view, a sheer bloody will to win.

Emley players salute supporters after clinching a quarter-final spot in the FA Vase. Picture: Mark ParsonsEmley players salute supporters after clinching a quarter-final spot in the FA Vase. Picture: Mark Parsons
Emley players salute supporters after clinching a quarter-final spot in the FA Vase. Picture: Mark Parsons

The pitch looked in good nick considering the weather and was testament to an unsung team of heroes – Emley's ground staff – and after Iyrwah Gooden put a header over following Pashley's initial shot, there was not much goalmouth action until the 28th minute when Whickham found some space for a shot but only found the side netting.

James Walshaw was inches away from breaking the deadlock and Whickham keeper Lister denied NCE League top scorer Ruben Jerome.

Both teams had chances as half-time approached, Walshaw could not quite steer his shot on target after Jerome outmuscled the defenders then at the other end, Aleksander Petrovic was called upon to make his first real save from a long distance shot.

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Emley fans usually look forward to the second half when they are shooting towards the Richard Hirst Stand as the noisy fans seem to spur them on. The shed was even noisier with the addition of around 100 fans who had travelled down from the North East and who were giving their team plenty of vocal support too.

James Walshaw fires Emley two up against Whickham. Picture: Mark ParsonsJames Walshaw fires Emley two up against Whickham. Picture: Mark Parsons
James Walshaw fires Emley two up against Whickham. Picture: Mark Parsons

It was Emley who started the half off the better, Gooden seeing a shot deflected for a corner, from which Walshaw steered a header over.

Some meaty challenges saw three Whickham players booked and Nathan Curtis went off having been the victim of quite a bit of Whickham's physical stuff, to be replaced by Tom Haigh.

It looked like Emley were chipping away at Whickham's defence, Gooden, Jerome and Walshaw causing them some real issues as a front three. Gooden saw a back post header go wide and Walshaw was denied by another save low down by Lister.

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Jack Cowgill headed narrowly wide before the game's opening goal finally came as Ross Hardaker’s corner was stabbed home by Charlie Barks.

Emley players Joe Clegg and Tom Haigh fans celebrate James Walshaw's goal. Picture: Mark ParsonsEmley players Joe Clegg and Tom Haigh fans celebrate James Walshaw's goal. Picture: Mark Parsons
Emley players Joe Clegg and Tom Haigh fans celebrate James Walshaw's goal. Picture: Mark Parsons

A huge shout for a penalty fell on deaf ears as Gooden was sent sprawling following a quick burst. Barks then played his part in his defensive role as his superbly timed challenge stopped a shot.

Emley struck again to double their lead and effectively end the tie when Jerome’s header steer the ball into the path of Walshaw, who saw off two defenders before blasting the ball home.

Whickham were not quite done and made it a bit of a nervous final few minutes, a shot flew over the bar and Cowgill was on hand to perform a textbook sliding tackle to prevent another good chance.

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There was then a scuffle as Petrovic was targeted with a nasty looking challenge, but the referee decided not to book a Whickham player nor any of the players from both sides who got involved.

Emley top scorer Ruben Jerome holds the ball up. Picture: Mark ParsonsEmley top scorer Ruben Jerome holds the ball up. Picture: Mark Parsons
Emley top scorer Ruben Jerome holds the ball up. Picture: Mark Parsons

The final whistle brought a huge cheer from the Emley fans in the 800 plus crowd – Emley's biggest since their return to the village in 2005.

They can now look forward to a quarter-final next month, but before then they return to the NCE Premier with a home game against Tadcaster Albion this Saturday.

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