This was appropriate given that for Emley, 116 places and five divisions below their opponents, yesterday was their Cup final. They will take home pounds 100,000 from their London jaunt - and the knowledge that they gave their best. The standing ovation at the end was testament to that, as was the team posing in front of their 3,000 jubilant supporters in the manner more usually witnessed at Wembley in May.
Above all Emley put themselves on the footballing map by never allowing themselves to think they were inferior, even when the evidence on the pitch made it clear that they were.
West Ham took the lead after four minutes when Eyal Berkovitch ran through the Emley defence and laid the ball off to Frank Lampard, who sent it high into the net over Chris Marples. It really should have been the Hammers' second because a minute earlier Berkovitch had put Paul Kitson into space on the edge of the box but Kitson only managed to hit the bar.
The fact the home side didn't increase their lead in the first half can be attributed to three main factors. First, the conditions - a ferocious wind and heavy rain in the opening minutes had turned the pitch into a patchy, sodden mess. Secondly, the profligacy of West Ham in front of goal. John Hartson hit the post on two occasions and fell over in front of goal with the ball at his feet on another, and Rio Ferdinand and Tim Breacker both made runs at goal they perhaps would not have tried against stronger opposition only to find themselves thwarted by Marples in the Emley goal. The third factor was the tenacity of the Emley defence and their committed, if not stylish, attacking football.
At the back for the visitors a pair of firemen, Steve Nicholson and Michael Thompson, did much to extinguish the threat of Berkovitch and Lampard, both of whom slogged tirelessly through the mud. Stan Lazaridis was the Hammers' other main inspiration, but he too was thwarted on several occasions by either the pitch or the cluster of Emley players who gave continuous cover at the back.
In attack, Emley had the tenacious postman Glynn Hurst constantly pushing forward, ably helped by the speedy Dean Calcutt and the solid Mark Wilson, who came on as a substitute after only six minutes and had the best chance of the first half nine minutes later. A swinging corner was turned on by a Hurst header and fell to Wilson on the right side of an open goal, but he was able only to hoof the ball wide.
Emley would not give up, and within two minutes of the second half starting had forced two corners, hit the post once and forced Craig Forrest in goal to make a fine save from a Wilson shot. Eleven minutes into the second period, the pressure paid off when, after another corner, taken by their captain Ian Banks, Paul David rose to head in an equaliser. The East End goliaths had a fight on their hands.
Twenty minutes from the end, Deinoil Graham had a shot saved by Forrest, and three minutes later Hurst ran the length of the pitch and only inexperience stopped him laying the ball off to Calcutt in space to score what would have been a dream goal. It was not to be. End-to-end play ended 10 minutes from time when Lazaridis crossed to Hartson, who headed the winner.
The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, heaped deserved praise on Emley afterwards. He said: "They worked their socks off and played some good football. They were tremendous. They were outstanding. If I said I knew we were in control and just waiting for us to score the winner, I'd be lying."
The Emley manager Ronnie Glavin said: "I'm really proud of the team. We were disappointed with their second goal." He added that his strategy had been to stop West Ham scoring. It almost worked.Reuse content