PENISTONE Church have enjoyed an excellent Christmas week with two wins over near neighbours, which keeps them in touch with the NCEL Premier play-off chase.

Church won 3-1 at home to Hallam on Saturday then 1-0 at second-placed AFC Emley on Boxing Day.

Emley were second, having not lost in the league since August and unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions with 17 wins.

But Nathan Keightley got the winner for Church midway through the second half in front of a crowd of 689.

Church are now tenth with 33 points from 21 games – three points and five places off the play-offs – having recovered from a 5-1 home loss to Garforth last week.

Coach Brett Lovell said: “It’s a really pleasing day for the club.

“We knew it would be a tough ask from the beginning.

“It was important we got that result against Hallam to give us confidence after the Garforth game when confidence was low.

“Emley will more than likely win this league and we wanted to give them a game.

“We wanted to stifle them and counter-attack.

“We had to dig in in the first half and it was an astute defensive performance against a lot of pressure.

“Our goalkeeper Harry Ambler was exceptional.

“The lads worked their socks off to a man.

“We knocked them out of their rhythm and they went more direct in the second half which we repelled.

“The goal is a moment of pure quality. Jordan Coduri brought it out from our box then Kieran Ryan played an excellent pass and it’s a great finish from Nathan.

“I am so proud of the lads.

“We had fantastic support with about 130 fans from Penistone making noise.”

In the Hallam game, in front of 373 fans, Antony Brown netted a sixth-minute penalty.

The visitors levelled then Ryan Johnson netted just before the break. Lennon O’Grady secured the win in the 90th minute.

Church are now due to visit Bottesford Town on Saturday.