A young and experimental Development side were defeated by clinical Northern Counties side AFC Emley on a balmy evening at the Welfare Ground this evening.
Town’s side contained five trialists; centre backs Curtis Jones (ex-Celtic) and Scott Harrison (ex-Darlington) started, whereas former Town Academy player Dominic Dickinson returned to play at left back. Elsewhere Adam Hinchcliffe (ex-Sheffield United) lined up in central midfield and 6’ 4” tall striker Callum Hassan (ex-Hartlepool) led the line.
Despite the result there were some positives for Development Coach Steve Eyre to take; the fitness levels of the players will have benefitted from the hot conditions and there were some standout performances from Town’s next generation.
On another evening the Terriers could have been two goals to the good before the ruthless hosts netted three first half goals, but in the end Emley were good value after an impressive performance.
The young Terriers started the game very well, keeping possession well against their hosts. Big striker Hassan – a hulk of a man at just 19 – spurned an excellent chance early on, volleying tamely over from just 12 yards after being picked out by Matt Crooks and moments later the midfielder picked out a forward run from Israel Johnson, who fired wide on his weaker left foot.
Tall and elegant playmaker Crooks had been afforded a role just off the striker and was a big influence throughout the first half. He was in the thick of things again on the 20 minute mark, perfectly picking out the run of Hassan to put him clean through – but on a slightly sticky Welfare Ground pitch he couldn’t get the ball from under his feet and fired badly wide.
Barely a minute later Crooks tried an audacious chip from halfway that drifted just over - the signs were promising.
However, things started to go Emley’s way in the 26th minute when defender Jones was penalised for handball. Up stepped striker Ashley Flynn – and he made no mistake in firing an accurate 20 yard free kick into the bottom corner.
The hosts extended their lead on the half hour mark when former Town Academy man Curtis Roberts drifted in from the right wing and sent striker Dean Wharam away, who was clinical in drawing Lloyd Allinson before sliding home.
The same man made it 3-0 six minutes later; with trialist Harrison looking for an offside flag that never came, he touched the ball past the stranded Town ‘keeper and placed the ball into the empty net.
Crooks tried to get his side back into the game with an enterprising run beyond the strikers upon the restart, but after beating the last defender home goalie Clark sprang from his line and smothered the eventual shot well.
However, the lifeline soon came for Town. Skipper Jordan Sinnott stole possession from an opposition midfielder and calmly looked up before chipping the custodian from fully 30 yards.
There was still time for Wharam to fire over from six yards as an action-packed first half came to an end.
Emley started the second period well and that man Wharam soon headed wide from an excellent Matt Thornton cross, but Town soon tried to continue their fight-back. The impressive Sinnott had a powerful 35 yard volley tipped over by the goalkeeper and from the resulting corner trialist Harrison had a near post snapshot stopped on the line.
Sinnott should have done better with his next effort just after the hour mark, but could only fire straight down the ‘keeper’s throat after being set up just inside the area by the creative Crooks.
The midfield duo looked the most likely source of another Town goal and combined again with 18 minutes left; this time Sinnott’s corner found the head of his tall colleague, but Crooks’ near post header was turned onto the crossbar by the goalkeeper.
Academy second year midfielder Duane Holmes made a lively cameo in the latter stages, but Town’s final ball often let them down as they searched for a way back and the hosts saw the game out to seal victory.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Lloyd Allinson; Dominic Dickinson, Curtis Jones, Scott Harrison, James Burke (Duane Holmes 52); Adam Hinchcliffe (Ahmed Ally 75), Jordan Sinnott (c); Max Leonard (Connor Loftus 46), Matt Crooks, Israel Johnson (James Burke 66); Callum Hassan (Max Leonard 63)