Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
Richard Tracey has tipped his hat off to his Emley AFC players for going 18 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Emley lost their opening game at North Ferriby and their FA Cup fixture at Glossop North End in the first two weeks of the campaign but no-one has since thrown a knockout blow onto them.
Emley sit proudly in second place, four points behind leaders Ferriby, and Tracey says the run could have been even better.
“Genuinely I think it is a phenomenal achievement,” Tracey told Non League Yorkshire.
“When we roll the clock back to the Hallam game which we won 2-0, I had one defender for that game.
“I begged, stole and borrowed.
“We got Callum Charlton back from Brighouse, Bailey Baker from Stocksbridge and I bumped into Niall Heaton by pure chance on the Saturday (in Leeds City Centre) when we didn’t have a game and I managed to rope him into playing.
“So three of the back four who played against Hallam and kept a clean sheet were literally roped in 48 hours before the game.
“That’s one of the games in the run and you look at how outstanding Hallam were last year, it was a really positive result for us.
“It hasn’t been easy and we haven’t gone without picking any injuries.
“I’m going to perfectly honest with you, Ferriby have beaten us and were strong.
“We have gone away to Maltby and being 1-0 up with eight minutes. You thought we could see that out.
“We drew 2-2 away at Bottesford, even though they got what I will call a very controversial penalty in the last minute to equalise.
“We have thrown some points away.
“Garforth could have beaten us, we could beaten them – both teams had decent chances.
“We have drawn a couple more than we would have liked to have done but we’re really pleased to be second in the league.
“You want to be at the top end.
“When we spoke at the start of the season we said we wanted to be at the top end of the table and as it stands we’re in and around it,
“We haven’t played Barton and we haven’t played Winterton who come up on Saturday.
“There’s some good sides in this league and we’ve gone away and beaten Penistone. We have beaten Handsworth who were flying so we know we have quality.
“Our problem has been when we have been playing teams away on not ideal pitches. That’s probably when we have not performed as we would have wanted.
“That’s something we will need to address if we want to remain at the top end of the table for the rest of the season.”
Their form and lofty league position opens up the dream of the reformed Emley reaching the heights of the Northern Premier League where the old incarnation plyed its trade for a lot of years.
Tracey remains grounded and is not getting into talk about the ‘p’ word.
“It is not something on our agenda or what we are talking about now,” he said.
“No-one within the club would turn their nose up at it if it fell upon us.
“We said this year was a year of progress and that we wanted to move forward.
“Ferriby are set up for it and are in a strong position.
“We have seen that anyone can beat anyone in this league and if we can put a run together like we have you’re always going to be in the mix.
“We know we will get beat at some point and then it is ‘have we got the ability to come back and put another run together’?
“If we do then maybe we can be in the mix.
“The reality of it is there’s a long way to go.
“We’re trying to keep our heads down and work hard at training to make sure we’re in a position to take on the teams in front of us.
“No-one is getting ahead of themselves thinking we’re in the promotion mix.
“We know we have to turn up every-week and earn the right to play whether it is Yorkshire Amateur or North Ferriby.
“There’s no gimme in this league.”
Joe Jagger and Iyrwah Gooden have been grabbing a lot of the headlines for their goals.
Jagger has already hit 20 – Gooden has eight.
Their league goals account for 24 out of Emley’s overall NCEL tally of 34 but Tracey says the midfield deserves as much credit.
“I’ll perfectly honest with you, we should have scored more goals than we have done,” he said.
“We create (a lot of) opportunities.
“What we have done really well this year is out-work teams as well.
“We have good players who can produce but we work hard and that’s because of the energy we have in the middle of the park with Joe Kenny, Donae Lawrence, Alex Metcalfe, Joe Clegg.
“All of those players can get around the pitch and they can rat, spoil and win the ball back for us.
“That allows us to play a bit higher because we can win the ball back closer to (the opposition’s goal).
“Ideally we have a quicker route to creating scoring opportunities.
“Joe Kenny has been excellent for us but I would also say he was a catalyst for the change for us last season.
“When we signed him it corresponded with us improving and that’s because he does have an energy about him.
“He can make runs in behind, he stretches teams, he gets back and rats. We needed that kind of energy.”
Recent weeks have seen the arrivals of Ross Hardaker, James Walshaw and Paul Walker.
Although no-one is on the radar at this moment, Niall Heaton’s impending departure means that could soon change.
“There is a possibility we may need to bolster the back-line,” Tracey added.
“It is not something in our minds right now but it is something we need to consider over the next couple of weeks.”
Emley visit Winterton Rangers this weekend.