Ruben Jerome struck his 27th goal of the season to send Emley AFC top of the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.
The Pewits came from behind to draw 1-1 at Hallam on Tuesday night but the point was enough to lift them above leaders Campion on goal difference. Crucially, Emley have three games in hand.
Hallam made a strong start and James Knowles had to be alert to stop a dangerous cross only a couple of minutes into the game. The Emley captain had to intervene moments later as Hallam got another dangerous ball in the Pewits’ box.
Young keeper Aleksander Petrovic – signed as cover for injured Declan Lambton – was called upon to make his first save on 13 minutes.
Emley were almost the masters of their own downfall after failing to clear their lines and allowing a shot from the edge of the box that the debutant got down well to save.
Hallam looked to capitalise on any nerves from Petrovic from successive corners that were delivered right into the danger zone. They weren’t all cleanly cleared but cleared they were.
It was half-way through the first half when Emley started to find their feet. A blocked cross brought a corner and Ross Hardaker made the hosts’ keeper make his first contribution of note. Moments later, Donae Lawrence picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and found himself with a couple of yards of space to fashion a shooting chance but the effort went just wide.
Hallam probably should have gone ahead on 28 minutes but the effort was high and wide.
Emley’s best chance of the half was all about Jerome. He picked up the ball on the right and drove with intent towards goal. With no support he kept going and was able to step inside and shoot. The ball whistled past the left hand post.
From the goal kick, Hallam’s direct play saw them get the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside. However, that was only a delay to their celebrations as Hallam took the lead in the 37th minute when Joe Lumsden scored after Emley could only half clear the ball.
Hallam pushed for a second whilst they had the advantage of playing downhill. A volley from the edge of the box went wide and Charlie Barks and Alex Metcalfe both had to make last ditch blocks to minimise the damage going into the break.
Emley made a change at the interval with Knowles sacrificed for James Walshaw as he returned from suspension.
There was an immediate change of intent for Emley and they started the half well. Irywah Gooden got more joy down the left and his shot, after cutting inside, drifted just wide of the far post.
Now it was Emley’s chance to turn the screw with a number of corners in quick succession. But Hallam were, like their visitors in the first half, equal to the threat – just.
In the 54th minute, Emley’s blistering start to the half got its reward. An initial ball in was only cleared to the edge of the six-yard box close to the byline and Walshaw was able to collect and cross to Jerome who made no mistake from three yards out.
Back on terms, Emley looked to turn one point into a maximum three and they nearly did but the goalkeeper and an offside flag denied Walshaw. Then Jerome had a header that looped just over and Gooden’s shot was scrambled away.
After soaking up a spell of pressure, Hallam tried to hit Emley on the break. Petrovic was called upon to make a good save low to his left and Charlie Barks made a brave headed clearance over his own bar that had him seeing stars after a clash with the Hallam attacker.
Emley were certainly having the better of the second half and nearly had the scoreline to prove it with 10 minutes to go. Gooden beat his man all ends up and was hauled down. From Hardaker’s free kick, Jerome’s header crashed off the bar.
Things got scrappy in the closing moments. Hallam managed to win a succession of soft free kicks to make their way up the hill in instalments. Their first sight of goal was brought to a swift end by an off-side flag.
A minute from time Hallam thought they’d snatched it when they got the ball in the back of the net from a free-kick but the referee ruled the kick had been taken before his whistle.
There were furious protests from Hallam and Daniel Pudil was sent to the sinbin.
Hallam still had time to hit the post and Lawrence and Walshaw had chances for Emley but the point was enough.
Emley’s next game is against Frickley Athletic on Saturday February 3 (3.00) at the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground. The Pewits are at home every Saturday in February.