Emley AFC manager Richard Tracey is confident that his team can be in the mix at the right end of the table come the end of the season.

The Pewits are now playing in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Premier Division. They kick off their campaign on Saturday when they travel to Winterton Rangers.

Tracey said: “We can’t hide from the fact that Winterton will be a very hard test for us. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to have our strongest team out on Saturday because a number of the lads have booked holidays or days off.

“No one really expected the season to start either this early or at all with Covid and some of the lads have booked days away. To be fair you can get this at the start of a season at our level anyway.

“I am not naive to know that people, because of their work, can only get time off to go on holiday in August.

“However, the huge positive is that some of our under-23 lads can step up and I really do believe in their quality. It’s not just about 11 players here at Emley, it’s about a squad and a pathway for our young players.”

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Tracey insists that the division is wide open this year. Whilst he wouldn’t be drawn on any end of season predictions, he believes his team can be competitive.

“We want to be in the mix at the right end of the table,” he said. “We know we can win games at this level, however we also know how tough it will be and that we have to respect the level we are playing at now. The club has been in the wilderness for a while, but now we are back and we want to keep driving forward.

Emley AFC vs Liversedge pre-season Credit: Mark Parsons

“A lot of teams in this league have players that can hurt you. What I would say is that with some of the bigger budget teams gaining promotion last season, it has left an opportunity for a team to put a good run together and to get itself up there.

“I won’t sit here and promise we’ll finish in the top six. However we’ll play to our strengths and put 100% effort in.

“It’s quite open like I say. Winterton did well last season as well as Sherwood, both came up with us. Then Silsden have made some good signings. There are teams like Eccleshill United, Thackley and Garforth Town who all know this division very well.”

Emley have had mixed results in pre-season however the last three friendlies have ended in victories. The Pewits beat Armthorpe, Stocksbridge and Glasshoughton, meaning they go into their final pre-season friendly on Friday against Huddersfield Town in positive form.

Tracey added: “Pre-season is always a journey and about peaking at the right time. We are going into Saturday with three straight wins which is good.

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“We deserved to beat Armthorpe, then Stocksbridge was a difficult game but we put in a great performance and again deserved to win. We beat Glasshoughton 5-0 with an amazing performance so it’s all building quite nicely going into Saturday.

“Pre-season starts with trying to get the lads up to fitness and ends with you ready to go into a competitive campaign.”

As seen a few weeks ago at Golcar United, Huddersfield Town can draw in a big crowd even if the first team players aren’t involved. Although the friendly with Town isn’t ideal for Emley a day before the season starts, boss Tracey is looking forward to the contest.

He said: “The game against Huddersfield would have been perfect the week before the season but it isn’t to be.

“It will be a good work out though and it’s a great opportunity to strengthen our ties with Town. We have a good relationship with them and hopefully a few of the Terriers supporters will come to our place to watch the fixture.”

Emley AFC v Huddersfield Town Academy is on Friday July 30 (7.45) at the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 concessions with under-13s free (must be accompanied by a paying adult).

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