By Andy Wells
Emley AFC u23s goalkeeper Lewis French made the vital save in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to decide the West Riding County FA under 23s cup final and bring the silverware back to Huddersfield.
The final was an exciting, to-and-fro match between two attacking sides in Emley AFC Academy and Leeds University. Emley went into the break 2-0 up but the second half saw the students come back to level it at 2-2.
The first 15 minutes of the match was dominated by Leeds University with shots firing inches above the crossbar and perfectly aimed, powerful shots being deflected by an unwavering Emley defence.
The Academy’s only response to the persistent pressure from the Uni students was long balls to the pacey forwards.
However it only took one long cross from Will Horkin to provide Emley a much required boost as it found the feet of Fraser Beckett who slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs and gave Emley the lead.
The Emley forwards looked sharp now and pressured the Leeds defence. It paid off for the Academy as a poor pass was swiftly intercepted by Beckett who placed a through-ball at the feet of Emley Academy’s top goalscorer, George Doyle on 12, who added to his tally and doubled the Academy’s lead just before half time.
A tight defensive display by Emley and a stand out performance from keeper French kept the University off the score sheet going into the second half.
The students were straight out of the starting blocks in the second half. They fired shots narrowly wide of the post, over the crossbar and stretched Emley’s keeper after shots from both flanks.
Following a poor challenge, the constant pressure earned Leeds University a penalty which was clinically put away for a deserved goal.
The match opened up as both teams pushed to take advantage. Chances came for the attackers and the defences remained impenetrable. However, Emley were first to blink in the final minute of regular time as a thunderous shot spilled out of French’s hands to the feet of a University forward who put the ball away to equalise.
After seven minutes of extra time and several blocked shots later, the game was tied and went straight into a penalty shoot-out.
Leeds University were first up and fired three very good penalties into the back of the net.
Emley Academy levelled with three equally well-struck spot kicks. Then the moment came for French to step up and save a penalty which was heading for the bottom right corner.
French got a hand to it to give Emley a chance to take the lead. Keenan Davies-Mosley and Doyle did not falter which handed the Emley AFC Academy their first piece of silverware in their inaugural season.