Adam Yates reports from a cheerful Marine Travel Arena as Neil Young’s men dominated Stafford Rangers across the park in a resounding 4-0 win that saw Marine gain three points in the league for the first time in nearly a month.

Marine, like many of the playoff hopefuls, saw their tally reduced this week due to Marske’s league resignation so the game was pivotal in regaining the form as well as the points they enjoyed in the autumn when they defeated the North East side.

Marine debutant Bobby Grant, signed this week from Litherland REMYCA, took around 200 seconds to give his new side the lead. A curling effort into the left hand corner gave the hosts the perfect start.

Not to be outdone, fellow new boy Matty Waters, who impressed midweek against Widnes, doubled the scoreline ten minutes later on the edge of the penalty area with an even more impressive lobbed curved finish over Rangers keeper Belford.

Stafford’s attempts to find a foothold in the game were routinely dealt with by a competent Mariner defence that seemed more calm and assured than their recent festive form suggested.

Cameron Belford’s afternoon went from bad to worse near the end of the half as he collided with his far post protecting his line from a Sinclair Smith free kick. Rangers frantically went through contingency plans as they had no replacement keeper but, after a concussion field test, Belford came back to position complete with bandaging.

The second half replicated the first with near dominant Marine possession. All players were outstanding in their efforts and seemed at ease with the high press and high intensity game that Neil Young had asked of them.

Marine left Stafford with too much to do as they made it 3-0 in the 54th minute with a stonewall penalty shout after Joseph Willis tripped up Harvey Gregson and Louis White duly converted the spot kick.

The one grey cloud in an otherwise perfect day came from an injury to Jordan Lussey who sustained an ankle injury, minutes after coming onto the field as a substitute. After lengthy treatment, assisted also by the Stafford medical team, Jordan left the field heavily aided by staff to warm applause.

Sinclair Smith managed to bring the crowd back to happier thoughts minutes later. Fin was rewarded for his energetic performance with a goal deep into injury time aided by brilliant passing play by Owen Robinson and Bobby Grant. Finlay lobbed Belford to top off a fantastic performance.

The win keeps Marine in the playoff conversation and they could be 3rd place by Monday night IF they defeat their next opponents, Bradford (Park Avenue) at Horsfall Stadium.

Marine: 1 Luke Hutchinson, 2 Matty Waters, 3 Freddie Sass (Joseph Ferguson 80′), 4 Jalil Saadi, 5 Chris Doyle, 6 Josh Wardle, 7 Finlay Sinclair-Smith, 8 Louis White (Jordan Lussey 63′), 9 Bobby Grant, 10 Owen Robinson, 11 Harvey Gregson

Subs: 12 Jordan Lussey (Manasse Mampala 69′), 13 Richard Cowderoy, 14 Joseph Ferguson, 15 Liam Nolan, 16 Manasse Mampala

Stafford Rangers: 1 Cameron Belford, 2 Andy Burns, 3 Ben Woods, 4 Simon Njaria (Nathan Blissett 77′), 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 Jake Moult, 7 Tyreece Onyeka (AJ Leitch-Smith 57′), 8 Joe Willis, 9 Kaiman Anderson, 10 Sean Cooke, 11 Kingston Fligg (Connor Heath 45′)

Subs: 12 AJ Leitch-Smith, 14 Nathan Blissett, 15 Connor Heath, 16 Niah Payne, 17 Derek Ubah

Saturday 13th January 2024

Attendance: 1,292

Man of the Match – Matty Waters

📸 Adam Yates

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