Marine tasted league defeat for the first time in nine games, as they lost 3-2 away at Leek Town.
Neil Young made four changes from the side that was knocked out of the FA Trophy in midweek, with David Raven, Ryan Wignall, Alex Doyle and Lewis Reilly coming in for David Lynch, Owen Watkinson, Ryan Stratulis and Niall Cummins.
The game started in end-to-end fashion, with both sides enjoying spells of attacking threat. Reilly had a great opportunity to give Marine the lead inside 10 minutes, as he failed to convert Neil Kengni’s cross from close range.
However, Leek had chances of their own and looked dangerous through the attacking quadrant of Tim Grice, Jack Wakefield, Rob Stevenson and Dan Trickett-Smith, with the latter seeing his 20-yard curler hit the inside of the right post.
A few minutes later, the home side broke the deadlock, as Billy Reeves cross slipped through Bayleigh Passant’s hands and into the goal.
Into the second half and things went from bad to worse for Marine. Passant and Mark Howarth failed to deal with a through ball into the penalty area, with the ball eventually falling to Grice, who doubled Leek’s lead.
On the hour mark, Reilly gave the Mariners a lifeline with his fifth goal of the season. The striker received the ball 20 yards from goal and fired his effort past Danny Roberts to bring the score to 2-1.
But Leek soon recovered their two-goal lead, after Passant came out his area to clear a long ball and misjudged the bounce, allowing Grice to sneak in behind and grab his second goal of the game.
This goal seemed to knock the wind out of Marine’s sails, who had just come back into the game with half an hour to go.
With the score at 3-1, Marine were forced into making attacking changes, with George Newell replacing James Devine to make his second debut for the club, following a loan spell in 2019.
Newell added an extra presence to the attack, with the on-loan Southport man joining Reilly and Kengni in the forward line.
Once again, Marine clawed a goal back to reduce their deficit to one. James Barrigan’s floating corner resulted in a scramble inside the Leek penalty area, as Kengni fired goalwards and the ball deflected into the back of the net.
Kengni could have salvaged a point for the Mariners deep into stoppage time, with Newell’s header falling into the path of Kengni, but Marine’s top goal scorer could not add to his tally from the edge of the box.
Callum Jones brought an end to the match, condemning Marine to back-to-back defeats in all competitions, and their first league defeat since September 15th
Next up for Neil Young’s side is the first of three consecutive home ties, as they welcome Ramsbottom United to the Marine Travel Arena.
Marine: Passant, Solomon-Davies (Lynch), Hayde, Devine (Newell), Howarth, Raven, Barrigan, Doyle (Chan), Reilly, Wignall, Kengni