Toolstation NCEL Division One
The losing play-off finalists are the team everyone is talking about. Quite remarkably Emley have retained Ash Flynn, who scored 73 times last season, and nearly all of cohorts. On top of that, Darren Hepworth has recruited proven quality from higher leagues.
Hepworth is one of the longest-serving and most well known managers in the NCEL. Despite many attempts and near misses, he has yet been able to guide Emley to their elusive promotion from Division One.
Opening Five Fixtures
Athersley Rec (H) – Emirates FA Cup, Pontefract Collieries (H) – LC, Penistone Church (A), Grimsby Borough (A), Teversal (H).
In: Aaron Joseph (Pontefract Collieries), Liam Schofield (Ossett Town), Adam Wilson (Brighouse Town), Tom Brennan, Gary Stevens (Tadcaster Albion), Matt Glennon,
Out: Michael Tunnacliffe, Adam Lawlor.
One to Watch
AFC Emley have to get off to a much better start if they want to achieve their aims, Darren Hepworth has said.
Despite having Ash Flynn in their side, the losing play-off finalists gave themselves too much to do in the race for top two last season.
Hepworth told Non League Yorkshire: “Promotion has to be the ambition.
“Yes after last season it was disappointing to finish in the way we did. If I’m honest, looking back, we didn’t start getting going until October and that cost us.
“We lost to Hemsworth in October and people wrote us because we dropped as low as tenth. It is funny because that day we played them off-the-park and were unlucky.
“We obviously hit a good run of form and went 23-games unbeaten and the league doesn’t lie. We lost some vital matches early to Hemsworth, Bottesford and Mansfield.
The play-offs are brilliant and the league have got it right.
“It meant we still had a chance to go up, but we don’t want to leave it to the play-offs this season. Clearly I have to look beyond top six, we need to be looking at an automatic spot.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘how can you not go up when you have a striker like Ash Flynn scoring 73 goals’, but is not just about the attack. It is also about making sure you don’t ship them.
“Defensively we have worked hard in pre-season and that’s why people like Gary Stevens and Adam Wilson will come in and help strengthen us.
“We want to have a good start. I’m not saying we want to run away with it, but we want to hit the ground running.”
The season begins on Sunday for Emley with their ‘annual’ home Extra Preliminary Round tie. Athersley Rec are the visitors.
Hepworth added: “It is a big test because Athersley are a good side.
“Hopefully we will get a good crowd and hopefully they’ll bring a few over from Barnsley.
“With the cricket taking precedent in August, if we get drawn at home in the FA Cup we would either have to do it on a Friday or Sunday.
“It does benefit us because we get bigger crowds because people from other clubs come down. Hopefully we can three or four hundred through the gate.”