By Andrew Simpson
HARROGATE Town held their nerve, and rode their luck too, before dispatching a Marine side that had them heaving a sigh of relief by half-time.
A glance at the result admittedly makes that sentence seem paradoxical, but those crammed into this corner of Crosby could scarcely believe the hosts were trailing at the interval.
And, yet, the contrast between the opening period and what followed later could not have been starker.
If the professionals, who operate three divisions higher, could not initially distinguish a gap between the teams then that is to Neil Young’s men’s credit.
However, the visitors did teach their opponents a lesson in how to be ruthless.
They also provided the perfect case study from a textbook on the best times to score.
Abraham Odoh hushed a raucous crowd in the sixth minute when, after a neat first touch, he used his toe to jab the ball past goalkeeper Felix Goddard.
Marine rallied, and Fin Sinclair-Smith’s drive from distance dipped a fraction too late.
Nervous Harrogate net-minder Lewis Thomas, deputising for injured Mark Oxley, then shovelled Sol Solomon’s free-kick around a post.
The Merseysiders continued to apply pressure, and equalised from the third in a series of corners when Chris Doyle met Louis White’s cross with a thumping close-range header.
Parity lasted for only three minutes, although there appeared little danger when Matty Foulds hammered clear a long throw from inside his own penalty area.
Defenders dithered, perhaps waiting for Goddard, and Sam Folarin pounced on the bouncing ball before applying a finishing touch from an angle.
Two shots, and two goals for Harrogate.
Marine reacted the same way they had to the previous setback, and Sinclair-Smith arrowed a stunning shot against the underside of the crossbar.
On 44 minutes, his pass sent Solomon clear and the striker lifted his shot over Thomas and towards goal.
Seemingly from nowhere, Foulds appeared and cleared heroically off the line.
In the blink of an eye, Folarin’s driven assist at the other end was directed wide by Matty Daly.
It was pulsating, and left everybody inside the ground wanting more.
If what transpired after the turnaround was anti-climactic, then Harrogate won’t care.
After all, they’ve now progressed past the first round in each of their four FA Cup campaigns since securing promotion to the Football League in 2020.
The contest’s deciding moment arrived on 53 minutes when Folarin intercepted Will Tomlinson’s loose pass before clipping a shot out of Goddard’s reach when the two came face to face.
It sapped Marine, and their supporters, who never recovered.
Daly almost made it a one-two blow when he forced Goddard to block at his near post before Odoh skewed off-target after he was teed up by Folarin.
Rod McDonald, a Marine opponent when he played for Nantwich earlier in his career, volleyed a fourth goal for the visitors – his first in their colours – when he met Foulds’ corner at the back post.
Odoh curled an attempt against an upright before Foulds added gloss with time running out when he completed a fine afternoon’s work by glancing in substitute Stephen Dooley’s set piece.
Marine had prevailed, coincidentally against foes from Yorkshire in the form of Halifax, when they played an FA Cup first round tie on home turf.
That happened 31 years ago, and their manager that afternoon, Roly Howard, waved to the crowd before kick-off during a lap of honour.
There was to be no repeat.
Marine: Felix Goddard, Kyle Hayde (Joe Ferguson 69), Nathan Woodthorpe, Willem Tomlinson (Jonny Spittle 74), Chris Doyle (Darius Osei 74), Josh Wardle (Cap), Finlay Sinclair-Smith, Louis White, Jordan Lussey (Manasse Mampala 59), Sol Solomon, Michael Carberry (Liam Nolan 69).
Unused substitutes: Toby Jones, Richie Cowderoy.
Harrogate Town: Thomas, Falkingham (Cap) (Cornelius 79), Thomson (March 73), Odoh, M. Daly (Muldoon 73), Folarin (Sivi 73), O’Connor, McDonald, Sutton (Dooley 79), Ramsay, Foulds,
Unused substitutes: Mitchell, Burrell, Horbury, Tweed.
Referee: Mr. Michael Barlow.