Resilient Mariners book their place in the NPL West playoff final, after a Neil Kengni hat trick snatches promotion away from Workington.  

Dean Winnard and Mark Howarth returned to the back line in place of James Devine and Olly Muir, with Jack Dunn also returning to the starting line-up, as Ben Hughes missed out through injury.  

Starting brightly, the Mariners looked to press high up the pitch from the off, but conceded a sucker-punch goal inside the first six minutes.  

Workington skipper Conor Tinnion lined up a free kick from 35 yards which Bayleigh Passant was unable to claim, spilling into the path of Scott Allison, who fired home from close range.  

But the away side stayed in the game and struck back on 22 minutes, after the ball fell to Neil Kengni on the volley, who fired a sumptuous strike into the top corner, levelling the scores.  

Both sides went on to exchange spells of control throughout the first half, with the Reds looking to exploit defensive frailties from set pieces, but to no avail.  

Special mentions must go to Luke Clark, Joe White and Mark Howarth. All three were excellent, despite missing much of the last few weeks through injury.  

Nothing to split the two sides at the break. 

Just before the hour mark however, Workington regained the lead, with a Tinnion free kick once again causing problems amongst the Marine back line, and Sam Smith tapped in from close range.  

In search of an equaliser, Marine dominated much of the ball in the second half but struggled to create many clear goal scoring opportunities. The likes of Dunn, Kengni and James Barrigan looked to drive the team forward wherever possible.  

With a quarter of an hour to go, Neil Young decided it was time for a change, with Clark and Lewis Reilly replaced by Owen Watkinson and Niall Cummins – who made his 100th appearance for the club.  

Marine continued to bombard the Workington backline with multiple balls into the box, but defensive duo Smith and Dan Wordsworth remained largely dominant.  

With two minutes on the clock, Kengni tried to replicate his earlier goal, but this time his volley flew too high, and it appeared that Marine’s promotion hopes were fading.  

Into added time, of which five minutes were announced, and Marine really began to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at Workington, with goalkeeper Passant going forward for set pieces.  

Then, in the 97th minute, a corner swung in towards the back post scrambled its way to Kengni, who once again made himself the hero by firing past Jim Atkinson, sending the travelling Mariners wild. 

With more than a few tired legs, two of the NPL West’s top sides throughout the season could not be separated in normal time, meaning an additional 30 minutes were required.  

Three minutes into extra time and Marine finally took the lead for the first time in the match, as Dunn slid the ball through to Kengni to the right of goal, completing his hat trick with a left footed poke past Workington’s ‘keeper.  

Now it was time for Workington to throw everything at Marine, as the Crosby side desperately tried to run the clock down and defend with their lives. Howarth and Winnard put in a clinic in defence, which is made even more impressive when you consider both are carrying injuries.  

Eight minutes from time, Winnard made himself the hero, clearing off the line following a mix up for Passant.  

With all eyes on the referee, the final whistle called an end to extra time, sending Marine into the NPL West Division playoff final, where they will travel to Runcorn Linnets, in a much more local tie for the Mariners faithful.  

Marine: Passant, Solomon-Davies (Devine), White, Howarth, Winnard, Clark (Watkinson), Barrigan, Doyle, Reilly (Cummins), Dunn, Kengni 

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