Football: Emley eager for East End adventure

Non-league notebook
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The Independent Online
There was more than just a trip to West Ham riding on the final spot-kick of a gripping penalty shoot-out at the McAlpine Stadium late on Wednesday evening. When Lincoln City's Phil Stant, a former professional soldier, stepped up to face Emley's goalkeeper Chris Marples, a former professional cricketer, both beer and glory rested on the outcome.

The UniBond League side were 4-3 ahead in the shoot-out, after an enthralling FA Cup second-round replay had produced a 3-3 scoreline following extra time. If Stant missed, then Emley, and not Lincoln, would book their lucrative third-round ticket to Upton Park.

"I'll have a pint on this with you," Stant said. Marples, the former Chesterfield goalkeeper and Derbyshire wicketkeeper, agreed - and promptly saved the penalty to seal a shoot-out victory for the club from the West Yorkshire village with a population of around 500.

"It might have been bitter, but it was one of the sweetest drinks I've ever had," Marples, who now works as a gardener, said.

Marples is making a name for himself as a shoot-out expert. He saved three penalties at the end of the first-round replay against Morecambe to set up the tie with John Beck's Lincoln side, and added another two on Wednesday to make it five spot kicks saved from nine attempts. "It's not been a strong point of mine before," he said.

Marples' heroics concluded a memorable night for Emley, who had never progressed beyond the first round of the Cup prior to this season. They trailed 2-0 with just 15 minutes of normal time to play, but goals from Deniol Graham, the former Manchester United forward who is now a labourer, and Steve Nicholson, a fireman, earned the extra period. Nicholson scored again, from the spot, but a late equaliser from Lincoln led to the shoot-out.

Marples, who has also kept goal for York and Stockport, has appeared at top-flight grounds before, but the same does not apply to all his team- mates. "It's great for them because a lot of them have not even played at League grounds before, so to go to a Premiership club is just fantastic," he said.

Emley hope to make at least pounds 100,000 from the third-round tie at West Ham on 3 January - funds they need to secure their future. They will be able to bring their Welfare Ground, which has a capacity of just 3,000, up to GM Vauxhall standard.

The journey to Upton Park will be a special one for Emley's secretary Richard Poulain, who retired as a Football League referee at the end of last season. He supported the Hammers as a child and had trials with the London club as a teenager.

Emley's manager, the former Partick Thistle, Celtic and Barnsley midfielder Ronnie Glavin, said: "Every big game you play in, every trophy you win, they've all got their own special memories.

"This is the same, this is a special memory as well and you just want to enjoy it. But it ranks right up there with everything else I've achieved - and it's certainly the best feeling I've had as a manager.

"We go to West Ham with nothing to lose," Glavin added. "The expectancy of everyone in Britain will be very low, but we will go and enjoy ourselves and give it our best shot."