Result: Marine 2-2 Skelmersdale United (Evo-Stik NPL Premier League)
Venue: Rossett Park, Marine Travel Arena (Monday 31st August 2015, 3pm)
Bank Holiday Monday dawned and with it came the usual Great British Bank Holiday weather. Rain. Much to the dismay of club’s everywhere, the inclement weather hung around all morning and into the early afternoon, knocking off those extra fair weather fans from attendance figures all over the country. As for me, I was to head for Crosby and Marine AFC of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, for their derby fixture against Skelmersdale United.
After missing my intended train due to me forgetting about track works further up the way, I was eventually successful in getting the 12.20 rattler from Urmston to Hunts Cross station near Liverpool. After crossing platforms here, I was soon on my way towards Southport, but my own destination was to be Blundellsands & Crosby station.
After a further 35 minute journey, I exited the train and was met by a damp, drizzly Merseyside. To make it slightly worse, I then got lost a bit (if you would believe that), but was soon on the right tracks, or pavements, heading towards College Road on which Rossett Park, the home of Marine, sits. But, with around 40 minutes still to go until kick-off, I decided it was too early to head into the ground just yet, so I headed to the neighbouring Edinburgh Pub. This is a pub with real character, split into a number of small lounges and rooms and is well worth a stop off in.
After finishing off my Strongbow tipple, there was around 15 minutes to kick-off and so I decided to head next door. But, just as I exited the Edinburgh’s doors, the rain began to fall heavier upon myself and the group of Skem fans I was queuing up behind to reach the turnstile. After paying the, rather princely, sum of £10 for entry, I was soon briskly walking down the small pathway which leads down the side of the clubhouse and Main Stand. But first, it was the programme hutch which I was aiming for and after paying a further £2, I had my copy of “The Mariner” safely stowed away, if you forgive the pun.
So, after this purchase, I was pitchside at Rossett Park. You enter behind the goal and, as stated earlier, from down the side of the clubhouse/dressing rooms. The stand is to your immediate right and is joined by some covered standing terrace directly in front of it. There is also a small open terrace further to the right, near the terraced houses, separated from the stand by the walkway to the old club shop & the “Galley”, the food hut, which wouldn’t look out of place in a scouts base. To the left of the pitch is a covered “bus stop” terrace and behind the far goal are further uncovered terraces. The right side is non-existent, due to Rossett Park having one of those anomalies, which sees it built right up against the terraced houses’ gardens, meaning it’s a three-sided ground, though the dugouts are located here.
Before long, the players made their way from the tunnel and out onto the field and into the drizzly air hovering over Crosby. Marine, in white shirts and black shorts, were to start off attacking the far end, with all-red Skem attacking the stand end. We were all set to go then, but first, let’s have a look at the history of the Mariners of Marine AFC…
Marine AFC was founded in 1894 and are notable for having the longest serving manager in post-war English football. That honour is held by Roly Howard, who held the post for 33 years and no less than 1,975 games and is recognised as such by the Guiness Book of records as the longest serving manager in world football! The club’s foundations began with local businessmen and college students coming together to form a club, with the name derived from the Marine Hotel in Waterloo, where the founders met. Marine moved to Rossett Park in 1903, remaining there ever since.
They quickly achieved success in the local I Zingari and Liverpool Combination, winning numerous titles in both competitions. In 1935-’36, the club undertook the step from amateur to all-professional football, but enjoyed limited success before returning to the amateur levels and the Cheshire County League in 1969
In 1972, the aforementioned Howard was appointed manager, before he left at the end of the 2004-’05 season. Under Howard’s stewardship, the club won 30 trophies, including returning to being a pro outfit from 1974, winning three Cheshire League titles and two League Shields before heading into the Northern Premier League in 1979.
During their time in the NPL, the club have won the title twice, in 1993-’94 & ’94-’95 and three NPL League Cups (1985, ’92 & ’03), by now back as an amateur outfit. The club also reached the 3rd Round of the ’92-’93 FA Cup, where they eventually went out to Crewe Alexandra, in addition to a further ten 1st Round and two second round appearances, including taking the scalps of two league clubs, Barnsley and Halifax Town. Their cup honours include 13 county cups and numerous other local trophies.
After a couple of recent play-off appearances before the turn of the decade, Marine have slowly receded into a period of obscurity, culminating in last season’s struggle and eventual last day survival with an impressive win at Blyth Spartans enough to keep Marine in the NPL top division, despite some late uncertainty regarding reprieves and more after a 21st placed finish, which was in the original relegation places. But, reprieved they were, leading to today’s contest as a result.
So, we were underway in soggy conditions, with both sides cancelling each other out for the majority of the first half of the game. A good game was being played in the conditions, despite little in terms of chances being created with Skem ‘keeper Martin Fearon keeping out the best one, as he saved Lewis Codling’s effort and smothered Carl Peers’ shot at the feet of the attacker. However. it was Skem who broke the deadlock, when a goalmouth scramble led to a trip on the penalty spot and a certain penalty. Danny Mitchley stepped up and coolly stroked past Matt Cooper in the home goal. 0-1.
Just before the break, I headed to the Galley for some food and as I was ordering my pie, peas & gravy (£2.60),I heard the unmistakeable sounds of celebration and confirmed by the tannoy announcer, a goal. It was Mitchley again, and apparently it was a defensive error that allowed him in to give Skem the breathing space heading into the break. 0-2, half-time.
So, after almost spilling the gravy all over myself and the seat I’d now taken in the stand, the players were about to retake the field for the second period. I finished off the very decent peppered steak pie, peas & (only just) gravy and camped in the stand directly behind the goal that Marine, with that two-goal deficit, were to be attacking for this half. And what a good decision that would turn out to be, even if I say so myself!
This was down to the fact that the Mariners absolutely dominated the visitors throughout the 45 minutes and, in truth,should’ve got more from the game than they took. They should have grabbed one back soon after the restart, when a quick attack down the left flank gave Carl Peers the chance to net from 6 yards, but he blazed over with just Fearon to beat.
By now, Skem were well and truly under the cosh and with little sign of any let up, they continued to drop deeper and deeper, with their young winger, Anthony Donaldson, taken out of the game as a result, after a fantastic first 45 where he proved a constant threat to the Marine defence. As Skem manager Tommy Lawson stated after the game, upon Donaldson being awarded visitors’ Man of the Match, “He’s not old enough to drink”, as he was given the bag of Carlsberg as a prize. On this showing, he’s certainly one to watch out for in the future.
But, Marine’s pressure finally told just after the hour, when good play through the middle led to Lewis Codling being presented with the ball and with a static Skem defence around him, he fired past Fearon. 1-2 and game on!
Big striker Andy Owens, who proved a thorn in the United defence throughout, had a superb chance to draw his team level, when he burst through two players, who parted like a poorly fastened gate, and he placed his shot wide of Fearon, but also, wide of the post, much to his dismay, as he lay on the floor for a good 30 seconds after. But, he was to be reprieved for his erring later in the half, when a fine ball over the top found Peers unmarked at the back post and he guided a fantastic side-foot volley into the far corner to spark jubilation around me.
The referee wasn’t to escape the wrath of the fans though, some of whom weren’t too endeared by some of his decisions, and he received a harsh threat from one fan who looked about 10-years-old. This would strike fear into any person and I’m sure the FA will have to look into it and contact the relevant authorities… “Do your job ref, or I’ll get me little sis on ya!” Disgusting!!! In all seriousness, WHAT a heckle that is! There was also a young Skem fan, who appeared to be channelling the full ultra away day spirit down the far end, including a one-man (boy?) “Let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal!” followed by cheer. Crazy scenes!
Owens almost won it at the death too, when he was played in, but his effort on the angle was tame and collected comfortably by the grateful Fearon, to ensure the spoils were shared which was, for me, the correct result over the 90, though I’m sure Marine may feel they could have grabbed all three and, on chances, it would be hard to argue. Great game, though, and well worth the effort to get there through our fine summer weather.
After the game, I had a good hour to waste, so it was into the very smart clubhouse, where I got a Desperados and the players’ pizza soon arrived too. After witnessing the two M.o.M. awards being given out, it was time to walk back to Blundellsands & Crosby for the train.
So, it was back home I headed, down some stairs and past the strangest placed road sign I’ve ever seen! Then I exchanged some change for a note with the guy on the platform; “Pleasure doing business with you!” he commented, with a laugh, though I think if anyone had been walking past at that moment, they may have imagined a shady dealing had just happened. I also noted the assistant on the “bus stop side” was a Jason Jarrett and he did look a fair bit like the ex-Wigan man, though this may just be hindsight.
With little in terms of action happening on the way back, I think I’ll spare you the details. Back onto the Manchester League midweek, before heading, probably to a Vase game on Saturday. Suggestions always welcome!
Game: 9- End-to-end contest with good quality within and drama too.
Ground: 8- A smart ground, mixing new build with traditional. Love the three-sidedness.
Fans: 9- Proper fans, really got behind the team and believed they’d get back into it.
Programme: 7- A decent read, with many different club aspects covered.
Food: 7- Decent enough, hot but pastry was a bit hard, if I had to nit-pick.
Value For Money: 7- Just on the basis that the £10 admission is rather steep for the division, compared to most.