Following last week’s postponement away to Durham City, Marske were playing their first competitive game for a fortnight with managerless Ashington making the long trip from Northumberland to the GER Stadium. Marske had a full squad to choose from with Austin Johnston, Sam Garvie and Tom Bott all declared fit though the latter two had to be satisfied with a place on the bench. New signing from Heaton Stannington, Jonathan Wright, came straight into the starting eleven with Danny Brunskill dropping to the bench alongside Glen Butterworth and other new signing from Billingham Synthonia, Stephen Gibson.
Marske started the game on the front foot and created their first opportunity in the opening minute when Wright and Jamie Owens combined with a great run from Wright setting up Owens who tried to take a step to his left to find space to shoot but his shot was well blocked by the Ashington defence. Seconds later a cross from Wright was blocked and the ball went out to Craig Gott who delivered an excellent cross that was headed just wide by Owens. On 4 minutes, the home side created another chance when a long pass from Gott set free Reece Kelly who had made an excellent cross field run; the winger controlled the ball superbly but his shot was too high and went over the bar. Marske were dominating the opening exchanges and just a minute later Wright shot wide with his left foot when passing to the unmarked Josh Macdonald was perhaps a better option. Ashington suffered a blow on 8 minutes when skipper Andrew Johnson, who had taken a knock minutes earlier, was unable to continue and had to be replaced by ex-Newcastle United junior Phil Airey. On 10 minutes, referee Shane Sugden adjudged that full back Ben Christensen had handled a cross from Liam O’Sullivan. However, the delivery from Gott was uncharacteristically poor and was cleared by the Ashington defence though only to Macdonald who delivered an excellent cross that was glanced home by Darren Hollingsworth to give the home side the lead. On 20 minutes, the first yellow card of the game was given to Ashington left back Lewis Davison after he carried the ball too far and fouled Austin Johnston while stretching for the ball. A minute later, Owens did superbly to beat Christensen on the left and made space for a cross but his cross-shot sailed over the bar. Marske’s domination of the half continued with Ashington struggling to get the ball out of their own half and just before the half hour mark, Adam Wheatley did superbly to win the ball at the back and launched an attack that involved Gott, Wright and Macdonald and it was the flying winger who won a corner for Marske. The corner was taken quickly which caught Ashington unaware and Kelly and Macdonald exchanged passes before Macdonald raced into the box but his shot went wide of the target. On 32 minutes, Kelly did superbly to win the ball and passed to Wright who saw his low shot from the edge of the box go just wide. A minute later the referee played an excellent advantage following a foul on the advancing Gott by Airey as the ball had been played to Kelly who shot into the side netting. The next chance of the game fell to new signing Wright but keeper Conor Grant saved with ease. Grant was called into action again on 41 minutes making a truly superb save getting the tiniest of touches on a shot from Kelly following a pass from Gott. From the ensuing corner, the ball was again played short between Macdonald and Kelly and Kelly showed great skill to advance into the box but saw his shot blocked by Wayne Buchanan. On the stroke of half time Tony Stevenson was booked for a poor, late challenge on Macdonald on the right touchline. Gott’s free kick was partially cleared to Kelly who showed tremendous skill to play the ball out to Owens who cut in from the left into the penalty area and delivered a great shot with his unfavoured right foot, from the edge of the box, which sailed past Grant for his 30th goal of the season in all competitions. In the second minute of injury time in the first half Owens did superbly to outmuscle Buchanan and race into the box where he squared the ball to Wright who shot just wide.
Half Time: Marske 2 Ashington 0
The first opportunity of the second half fell to the home side but Owens saw his shot blocked by an Ashington defender. In the 49th minute Marske keeper Robert Dean made his first real save of the game from a shot from Andrew Ferrell. Kelly became the first Marske player to be booked on 56 minutes for a foul on Stevenson which was the last action for either player as shortly afterwards Kelly was replaced by Sam Garvie before a minute later Stevenson was replaced by the experienced Martin Brittain. With the game just passed the hour mark a pass from Owens set Wright free who made space but shot wide with the ball bobbling making it difficult to shoot. A minute later Glen Taylor had a great chance to get Ashington back into the game following a flick from Airey but his shot went wide of the post. At the other end Macdonald set up Wright but his shot from distance was well saved by Grant. With 20 minutes remaining, Ashington made their final change with Kyle Downey replaced by Marc Walton, so often a thorn in the side of Marske in the past. However, just a minute later it was game over as Wright marked his debut with a goal. The goal came from fantastic work from Owens who blocked an attempted clearance from Buchanan, beat two men and laid the ball on a plate for Wright to fire past Grant from 10 yards out. It was Wright’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Brunskill. At the same time Marske also replaced Johnston with Glen Butterworth. On 78 minutes, Marske repeated the scoreline of their previous game against Newton Aycliffe when great play involving Garvie, Gott and O’Sullivan ended with Garvie being tripped just outside the penalty area. Gott stepped up and curled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net past the helpless Grant. On a rare foray forward Walton shot wide from the edge of the box. With 7 minutes remaining David Hillerby was fouled by Davison after delivering a cross and from the quickly taken free kick Owens shot across the face of goal. With the clock approaching 90 minutes Brunskill had a shot cleared off the line before Kyle Oliver showed great skill to beat 3 men but shot over the bar. The last chance of the game fell to Marske but Garvie saw his shot deflected for a corner after a quickly taken throw in involving Garvie and Owens.
Full Time: Marske 4 Ashington 0
Marske: Dean, Hillerby, O’Sullivan, Johnston (Butterworth), Hollingsworth, Wheatley, Macdonald, Gott, Wright (Brunskill), Owens, Kelly (Garvie)
Subs (not used): Bott, Gibson
Ashington: Grant, Christensen, Davison, Ferrell, McGlen, Buchanan, Stevenson (Brittain), Oliver, Taylor, Johnson (Airey), Downey (Walton)
Subs (not used): Robson, Barnard
This was another clinical performance from Marske who went 3rd in the table and narrowed the gap at the top to 2 points thanks to Guisborough’s excellent win at West Auckland. There is now just 6 points between 1st and 7th as the league promises to go down to the wire. Marske have now gone 410 minutes in the league without conceding a goal and in that time have scored 14 goals in four and a half games. In the league Marske have now lost once in their last 15 games, the sole defeat being a midweek defeat at Penrith before Christmas. Next Saturday promises to be a pivotal day in the title race as Marske visit Shildon and North Shields are at home to West Auckland. While it won’t decide who wins the title it is the biggest weekend of the season so far with both games promising to be crackers.