Owen Watkinson’s superb header was cancelled out by Jordan Davies’ free kick late on, resulting in a 1-1 draw between Marine and Wrexham in the Emirates FA Cup.
Marine started the match with intensity, not allowing Wrexham time on the ball and putting early pressure on with several set pieces. Danny Shaw and David Raven ventured forward on a number of occasions, with both defenders having chances at goal.
In the 13th minute, a collision between Niall Cummins and Wrexham’s goalkeeper Rob Lainton left the latter in a heap and required treatment. Lainton was subsequently substituted, with Christian Dibble coming on.
The first half spelt few chances for either side, with Marine often struggling with the final ball in attacking areas. Midfield duo Alex Doyle and James Barrigan bossed the midfield, making a number of big challenges and winning second balls.
Wrexham posed their most dangerous chances through the long throw of Ben Tozer, who would launch the ball into the penalty area, allowing his defensive partners Harry Lennon and Aaron Hayden to join the attack.
The two sets of fans reacted very differently at the half time whistle, with the 350 travelling fans booing their side off the pitch, whereas the Mariners were cheered and applauded off the field. If you had told a neutral that Marine play three leagues below Wrexham, they might not have believed you.
With the second half underway, Marine picked up where they left off, pressing high up the pitch and not allowing the Reds’ back three time on the ball. Wing backs Jamie Reckord and Bryce Hosannah were often pinned back, due to the excellent work rate of Neil Kengni and Owen Watkinson.
In an increasingly tight game, both sets of defences came out on top for most of the afternoon. Marine were limited to just a few sights of goal, with Kengni’s low driven effort looking destined for the bottom corner, but sub ‘keeper Dibble was equal to it.
Striker Paul Mullin had a quiet afternoon for Wrexham, however he grew into the game as it went on, beginning to drop deeper in order to get more involved in play. Liam McAlinden was the main driving force for the away sides’ attacks, carrying the ball forward whenever he found space.
With 12 minutes to go, Marine won a corner after Dibble tipped Cummins’s effort past the post. Doyle, who was named Man of the Match, swung the corner in towards the near post and met the head of Owen Watkinson, who brilliantly headed the ball into the top right corner. Atmosphere electric, the whole team ran over to celebrate with the supporters, with belief in the ground that Marine were going to cause another FA Cup fairytale.
The final ten minutes saw a rejuvenated Wrexham pose more attacking impetus on the match, getting an increasing number of crosses into the box. Dior Angus, who came on for the final 25 minutes, looked dangerous and was a constant aerial threat.
In the fifth minute of added time, the referee awarded Wrexham a free kick about 25 yards from goal. Marine fans and players alike were baffled by the decision, but had to concentrate for the free kick, with Jordan Davies ready to strike. Devastatingly, Bayleigh Passant could not quite get a strong enough hand on the ball to stop it from clipping the post and dropping into the net, breaking the hearts of Marine fans in the stadium.
Despite the last-second anguish, the Marine players and staff can be immensely proud of the team’s performance, dominating much of the match against a side three leagues their superior. Next up for Marine is of course the replay, which will be held in Nantwich. An away tie against Harrogate Town awaits the winner in the First Round.
Marine line-up: Passant, Solomon-Davies, Hayde, Howarth, Shaw, Raven, Watkinson (Devine), Doyle, Cummins (c), Barrigan, Kengni (Wignall).