Goals from Neil Kengni, Alex Doyle and Owen Watkinson ensured Marine got off to a winning start, defeating Newcastle Town 3-1 in the opening game of the 2021-22 season.
After a frantic first 10 minutes in which both sides battled to assert dominance on the match, it was the Mariners who enjoyed the lions share of possession, with Alex Doyle and David Lynch using their physicality and energy to control the midfield. The two wide forwards, Neil Kengni and Owen Watkinson can also be credited for their work rate in pressing Newcastle’s defensive line, not allowing the home side to play out from the back.
Kengni’s constant pressing was rewarded in the 15th minute, as he pounced on a scuffed clearance from Dom Kurasik in the Newcastle goal and slotted the ball neatly into the bottom left corner. The pacy forward was a constant thorn in the home teams side, despite missing all of pre-season through injury.
Then it was time for the goal scorer to turn provider, with the 21-year-old cutting in on his left foot and sliding the ball into the path of Alex Doyle, who dispatched of his effort with all the goal scoring composure of a centre forward. Doyle, whose style usually consists of breaking up play and helping with the defensive side of the game, showed he also has the capability to break into the box and chip in with goals.
With a 2-0 lead and a serious foot hold on the game, Neil Young’s side looked extremely comfortable as they continued to run the midfield through Lynch and Doyle, with Mark Howarth looking to provide the creative spark. Captain Niall Cummins’ role in the team can also not be understated, as he often held the ball up well before laying off for one of his strike partners.
There was time yet for Marine to add a third goal before the half time break, as a long ball forward from the debutant right back Ben Roberts could only be cleared as far as Owen Watkinson, who demonstrated the pace and power he possesses by striding past both Luke Dennis and James Askey to roll the ball past Kurasik. The former Blackpool man had a good game on his competitive debut, contributing by carrying the ball forward and bringing others into play by holding the ball up.
Half time and three goals to the good, chants of “we’re going to win the league” rang around the Red Industries Stadium from certain sections of away supporters.
The second half started much like the first, frantically, with Newcastle’s half time introduction of Max Chimenes and Will Gibbons seemingly sparking a new lease of life to a largely uninspiring attack. The main attacking threat for the Castle was wing back Nathan Morley, who caused several problems for Roberts down the left wing.
About 10 minutes into the second half, a strong challenge on Kengni left Cummins feeling aggrieved, with his protests landing him in hot water with the referee. Cummins was shown two quick-fire yellow cards, leaving Marine to complete the game with 10 men.
The sending off encouraged the home side once again, as they swiftly removed the defensive Jack Fishman and introduced Darren Arber, further adding to the attack.
Newcastle did manage to pull a goal back on around the hour mark, with skipper James Askey nodding the ball in from a corner.
While the goal did clearly lift the confidence of the Staffordshire side, they still rarely threatened the Marine goal, with centre back pairing David Raven and Anthony Miley both having brilliant games at the back, with Miley in particular winning almost everything in the air.
The game began to lose its tempo towards the final 15 minutes, which suited the Crosby natives to a tee. The likes of Howarth, substitutes Ryan Wignall and Ben Hughes, as well as Doyle effectively retained possession for long spells, draining energy and hope from Newcastle.
Manager Neil Young can be pleased with his sides performance, showing great professionalism and determination to press from the front and battle hard in midfield. Every man played their part in securing an opening day victory in front of 180 fans, with the Mariners now looking forward to a trip to Ramsbottom on Tuesday night.