Adam Yates reports from the Marine Travel Arena as Marine put an end to Radcliffe’s explosive start to the season as they ran out 3-2 winners and formally announced themselves as a team that can fight for not only the playoffs but automatic promotion.
A Sol Solomon goal bookended by a brace from Finlay Sinclair Smith was enough to see the Mariners move up to third in the Northern Premier League as well as a fifth straight win in the NPL.
From the off, the evening had the feel of a European cup tie with notable support from the travelling Radcliffe contingent and of course the Black and White army of Marine that made themselves heard during the heated encounter.
Marine came straight out of the gate with a vengeance (and a sprinkle of good fortune). Finlay Sinclair-Smith stepped up for a free kick on the edge of the box and his attempt deflected heavily off Radcliffe skipper Nicky Adams in the wall. The ball arched high and away from the goalkeeper and dropped into the far side of the goal. The main stand erupted in only the third minute of the game.
10 minutes later, Marine doubled their lead. They passed across midfield via Jordan Lussey and then Joe Ferguson. Ferguson found himself besieged quickly by the Borough but he managed to cut the ball through to Solomon who scored via a trademark tight angle across the face of goal.
Radcliffe were initially shell-shocked by the intensity of the opening 15 minutes but they showed their quality and attacking danger, looking for openings and they found it on the stroke of half time. Scott Duxbury’s free kick was saved but only into the path of Jamie Morgan who fired past Goddard. Conceding a goal just before the interval can give a team a monumental mental blow and the crowd’s spirits were somewhat lessened but still cautiously optimistic that Marine could keep the league leaders at bay for another 45 minutes.
After the break, Marine’s chances were boosted by the forced substitution of Borough skipper Nicky Adams, who has featured in every one of Radcliffe’s victories this campaign and was pivotal to their passing play.
It was when the 70th minute arrived that the Crosby crowd truly felt like this could be their night. Sinclair Smith chased an unlikely ball sandwiched between two opposing defenders. Somehow Fin left with the ball and a Radcliffe player on the ground and FSS stormed towards the penalty area. His shot was partly saved but the Radcliffe keeper, Mateusz Hewelt should have done better and the ball eventually trickled into the net. Chasing balls down and pressing Radcliffe was reaping rewards but now the aim was to slow the game down. Yellow cards were produced for Woodthorpe and Goddard for running the clock down as every winning team aims to do.
As for Radcliffe, their possession increased and so too did the danger of their attacking forwards, Hulme, Dudley and Oyibo along with countless crosses from wingback Scott Duxbury.
Marine found themselves also on the bad side of injury as Charley Doyle left the field aided by the backroom staff and eventually the ground itself on crutches.
As title contenders always do, Radcliffe clawed their way into the game and gave themselves a lifeline. Number 7, Josh Hancock turned a Marine defender before rolling the ball into the bottom corner. It was 3-2 with 10 minutes to play…
Except that added time was still to be calculated and that was shown to the crowd as nine additional minutes of play. The 1222 in attendance, home and away, pleaded with their team to maintain possession.
Marine defended excellently during injury time, won free kicks and gave Felix Goddard no concern of an equaliser.
As the final whistle sounded, so did the volume in the stands and terraces. The Mariners had stopped Radcliffe’s amazing run and continued their own.
Many fans after the game agreed that not only did both teams give it their all but that they were certain they had just watched the next League champions tonight on that pitch. The question is who it will be…
Marine head back to the venue of their last defeat this Saturday. Hyde United were 2-1 winners in a League meeting back in August but an improved and white hot Marine return with only the FA Cup on their minds as they aim to reach the next (and last) qualifying round.
Marine: 1 Felix Goddard, 2 Joseph Ferguson, 3. Nathan Woodthorpe, 4 Jordan Lussey, 5 Chris Doyle, 6 Josh Wardle, 7 Finlay Sinclair-Smith, 8 Louis White, 9 Manasse Mampala (Will Russ 64′), 10 Sol Solomon (Darius Osei 74′), 11 Charley Doyle (Willem Tomlinson 53′)
Subs: 12 Jake Burton, 14 Darius Osei, 15 Will Russ, 16 Willem Tomlinson, 13 Richard Cowderoy
Radcliffe: 1 Mateusz Hewelt, 2 Jamie Morgan (Jake Thompson 68′), 3 Scott Duxbury, 4 Lois Maynard, 5 Rick Smith, 6 Olly Thornley, 7 Josh Hancock, 8 Nicky Adams (Luke Joyce 47′), 9 Jordan Hulme, 10 Anthony Dudley (Brad Jackson 68′), 11 Jude Oyibo
Subs: 12 Luca Navarro, 14 Brad Jackson, 15 Luke Joyce, 16 Jake Thompson, 17 Ewan Bange
Man of the Match (sponsored and selected by PM & M Accountancy) FINLAY SINCLAIR SMITH