Ralph Rands reports from Shawbridge as Mariners suffer the Blues…

Marine suffered their second league defeat of the season on Wednesday evening as fellow promotion hopefuls Clitheroe claimed all three points at Shawbridge.

James Barrigan replaced ex-Clitheroe manager David Lynch in the only change to the team which won at 1874 Northwich on Saturday.

The 13th minute proved unlucky as Neil Young’s men were dealt another injury blow, as Dean Winnard blocked an attempted cross from the home side and fell awkwardly. The centre-back hobbled off to be replaced by Lynch, with Mark Howarth dropping into the back four alongside Danny Shaw.

Despite Neil Kengni having a shot deflected behind and the industrious Owen Watkinson looking to threaten the home net, it was Clitheroe who grabbed the opening goal on 19 minutes. A ball from the Clitheroe left across the face of goal evaded the Marine rearguard and much-travelled striker Gonzales was on hand, almost literally, to bundle the ball home from close range amid appeals that the ball had struck his upper arm.

The Mariners didn’t fare much better following the goal, as the home side comfortably dealt with any attack and too many passes in the middle of the park were wasted. Just after the half-hour mark Barrigan’s long-range back-pass lacked weight and direction and Gonzales beat the onrushing Bayleigh Passant to the ball, but Shaw rescued his teammates with a timely intervention as Gonzales was about to double his tally.

However Marine failed to heed that warning and on 35 minutes another poor back-pass put Passant in trouble, the ‘keeper hurtling outside his area to try and avert the danger but his clearance on the stretch only reached Dent, the home midfielder curling a fine finish from 25 yards just inside the post to deepen the Mariners’ woes.

As if things weren’t looking bleak enough, the flashpoint of the half came three minutes before the break as a strong Ryan Wignall challenge on home winger Edwards right on the touchline sparked a melee involving all 22 players. Following a lengthy stoppage Wignall was dismissed by referee Beckett, with Edwards suffering a suspected dislocated elbow in the incident.

Niall Cummins was introduced at half-time in a bid to breathe new life into the Whites, and they had strong claims for a penalty waved away by Beckett just two minutes after the restart as Watkinson tumbled under a sliding challenge having burst into the box.

The lively Kengni continued to look most likely to test home ‘keeper Thompson, and once or twice he too looked to have been infringed without due reward from the arbiter. In truth, the game became scrappy as Clitheroe dominated possession without unduly troubling Passant.

On 69 minutes Marine were reduced to nine as Howarth, having been booked just a few minutes earlier for dissent, caught Dent with a late tackle and received his marching orders. James Devine was subsequently introduced in place of Watkinson to become Shaw’s third different centre-back partner of the night.

Ironically, the nine men put up stubborn resistance and performed admirably to prevent further damage.

With just a few minutes remaining a loose ball in midfield was seized upon by Lynch, who was on the receiving end of a dangerous challenge by home midfielder Connelly. This resulted in the second melee of the evening involving both sides and once the fracas was over Connelly was issued with a deserved straight red by Beckett. Lynch however was unable to continue, leaving the Mariners to see out time with just eight players, having used all three substitutions.

The final whistle was a relief to all, the home support greeting their victory with delight whilst the travelling Mariners were left to reflect on a terrible day at the office.

Marine will look to quickly put this result and performance behind them on Saturday as they host Warrington Town at the MTA in the Emirates FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round.

Marine: Passant, Roberts, Joyce ©, Howarth, Shaw, Winnard (Lynch 13), Watkinson (Devine 71), Doyle (Cummins 46), Barrigan, Wignall, Kengni.   Unused subs: Hughes, Reilly. Attendance: 558

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