A second half turnaround featuring goals from Neil Kengni and Jack Dunn ensure Marine will play Northern Premier League – Premier Division football next season, as a 2-1 win at Runcorn Linnets wins them the playoffs.
Neil Young made just one change from the side that won 3-2 in the semi-final at Workington, with Niall Cummins replacing Lewis Reilly in the starting line-up.
It was Linnets who started on top, grabbing a goal through Ryan Brooke inside three minutes, as Marine failed to set up for a corner defensively.
After that, the away side took the ascendancy, enjoying long spells of possession as they looked to carve out an equaliser.
Some quick link-up play involving Alex Doyle and Niall Cummins culminated with the ball being laid off to Neil Kengni, who saw his driven effort strike the base of the post.
Centre back duo Mark Howarth and Dean Winnard both had opportunities to head Marine into the lead, but neither were able to keep their headers on target.
Sean O’Mahoney had a couple of chances to double Runcorn’s lead, however the centre half’s strikes were kept out by Bayleigh Passant.
Into the second half and the Mariners continued to knock on the door, with almost all of the game being played inside the Runcorn half. Substitutes Owen Watkinson, David Lynch and Lewis Reilly helped to inject energy into the side.
Finally, in the 71st minute, the equaliser came.
Reilly picked the ball up just inside the penalty area, before unleashing a powerful left-footed strike against the crossbar. As the ball came back down, Kengni rose the highest to nod the ball past Owen Mooney, levelling the score.
Continuing the onslaught further, Jack Dunn’s long-range effort was well saved by Mooney, before the resulting corner from Marine’s number 10 almost made its way straight into the top left corner, but was tipped over for another corner.
Reilly swung the resulting corner into the box, where he picked out Dunn in the six-yard box, making no mistake with the header. Dunn has scored a couple of spectacular goals since joining the club, but this one from a couple of yards out is by far the most important.
Iwan Murray looked a constant danger throughout the game whenever Linnets launched an attack, delivering a number of menacing set pieces into Marine’s box.
A free kick from Murray caused panic among the Marine defence, but some resolute defending kept the visitors in the lead.
Runcorn’s Welshman Murray had appeals for a penalty waved away under challenge from Lynch, after what looked like a close call.
Effectively killing all momentum in the game from then until the final whistle, the players, management team, fans and club officials at Marine can now celebrate their return to the Northern Premier League – Premier Division.
After a season full of highs and lows, including countless injuries, players playing out of position and deducted points, today will serve as the perfect ending to a rollercoaster campaign, summarised through the two playoff games.
Marine: Passant, Solomon-Davies, White, Howarth, Winnard, Clark (Lynch), Barrigan (Watkinson), Doyle, Cummins (Reilly), Dunn, Kengni