Consett 1 Marske United 4
Following their magnificent win at Guisborough on Easter Monday, which kept up the pressure on their near neighbours at the top of the table, Marske were forced into two changes to their starting eleven. Austin Johnston was suspended having accumulated 10 bookings and Tom Bott was unavailable, so into the team came Josh Myers at right back and Reece Kelly onto the right wing. Consett lined up with Joel Dixon partnering Michael Mackay up front with Luke Sullivan on the right hand side of midfield. Consett were missing Chris Moore and Aristote Guerin-Lokonga but their line up still looked strong and the team had only lost twice at home all season in the league, scoring 61 goals in the process.
The game kicked off with Marske playing into the wind, having lost the coin toss. As the game started there was a flurry of snow and hail making conditions even more difficult. The first opportunity of the game fell to the home side when Darren Hollingsworth gave away a cheap corner kick, trying to head the ball back to Robert Dean and from the set piece Dan Madden got in front of his marker but his effort went wide. However, it was Marske that took the lead from their first attack of the game. A threaded through ball from Craig Gott sent Josh Macdonald, played onside by Madden, clear on goal and the winger kept his composure to curl a shot beyond Josie Longstaff in the Consett goal. Consett replied immediately but Dixon shot a long way wide from 30 yards after the Marske midfield afforded him too much space. On 12 minutes referee Craig Dean tried to play an advantage after Adam Wheatley tugged Dixon’s shirt but nothing accrued and play was brought back for a free kick, 30 yards out. Unfortunately for Consett, Sullivan’s delivery was poor and it hit the Marske wall and the danger was cleared. On 19 minutes, Consett came within inches of equalising when a fierce shot from Josh Gray, 30 yards out, crashed off the bar. Marske were generally doing a good job of ensuring most of the play was in midfield and in a rare foray forward a cross across goal from Macdonald following good skill to work the space somehow evaded Gott, Kelly and Jamie Owens. Dean was called into action on 35 minutes when an attempted chip from Michael Pearson was easily saved by the keeper. With 5 minutes until half time there was a strong appeal for a Marske penalty turned down by referee Dean. A cross from the right was caught on the wind and was swirling away from the Consett goal; keeper Longstaff continued to come for the ball but missed it completely and took out Owens just inside the 18 yard box. However, the referee saw no foul and waved play on. Marske retrieved the ball and Kelly showed neat close control to make space but Jack Walker did superbly to get a block in and divert the ball behind for a corner which came to nothing. A minute later, Danny Brunskill became the first player to be booked for a cynical clip on Gray who was breaking forward. In the first minute of injury time a shot from 30 yards from Matthew Slocombe sailed harmlessly over the bar as Marske were delighted to get to half time 1-0 up having played against a strong wind throughout the half.
Half Time: Consett 0 Marske 1
Marske started the second half on the front foot and created their first chance on 47 minutes. Kelly showed a clean pair of heels to David Brown and raced to the by-line and crossed to the feet of Owens who set himself but Madden did magnificently to block his shot. However, Marske weren’t to be denied and it was 2-0 on 49 minutes. A break down the left from Macdonald saw him play the ball to the overlapping Glen Butterworth who advanced into the box but saw his initial attempt blocked. However, when the ball came back to the feet of Butterworth he curled a delightful effort over the head of Longstaff and into the top corner. Buoyed by their second goal, Marske went looking for another to finish the match and Macdonald raced past Walker and pulled the ball back to Owens but Marske’s top scorer dragged his shot across goal. On 57 minutes, it was indeed game over when a fantastic run from Owens saw him beat two men but his cross was cleared to Macdonald, 30 yards from goal. The winger hit a fierce, low shot that fizzed past Longstaff into the bottom corner of the net. Marske were clearly in the ascendancy and it was nearly 4-0 shortly after when a poor clearance from Longstaff went straight to Macdonald who saw his shot go just over the bar. On the hour mark, it was nearly a hat-trick for Macdonald when a raking cross field pass from Gott saw the winger curl a shot just wide of the post with Longstaff scrambling across his goal-line. On 66 minutes, the home side got a goal back when Sullivan got the wrong side of Liam O’Sullivan who pushed him to the ground just inside the box with the referee having no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mackay stepped up and sent Dean to wrong way to reduce the deficit. Immediately after the goal, Marske made their first change with Kelly replaced by Sam Garvie. On 72 minutes, Brunskill, Owens and Butterworth combined to set up Gott but the skipper’s curling effort went just over the bar. With 8 minutes remaining Slocombe became the first Consett player to be booked for a foul on Macdonald and the winger got his revenge by curling a sumptuous free kick over the wall and into the top corner for his hat-trick and Marske’s 4th of the game. Marske made their second change following the goal with Owens replaced by Jonathan Wright. On 86 minutes it was very nearly 5-1 when Pearson gave the ball away and Brunskill retrieved it and turned inside Pearson onto his favoured left foot but his effort went over the bar. A minute later, Marske suffered a blow when injury forced Hollingsworth from the field. On in his place came Dom Gamble for a rare appearance with O’Sullivan switching to centre back allowing Gamble to slot in at left back. With the clock showing 90 minutes, Macdonald very nearly grabbed his fourth of the game when he played a corner short to Gott who in turn played the ball back to Macdonald who saw his curling shot go inches past the post.
Full Time: Consett 1 Marske 4
Consett: Longstaff, Pearson, Brown, Madden, Walker, Smith, Sullivan, Slocombe, Mackay, Dixon, Gray
Subs (not used): Eccles, Cole, Nicholls, Stones
Marske: Dean, Myers, O’Sullivan, Butterworth, Hollingsworth (Gamble), Wheatley, Kelly (Garvie), Gott, Brunskill, Owens (Wright), Macdonald
Sub (not used): Hood
This was a terrific performance from Marske who kept up the pressure on Guisborough at the top, though there was disappointment from the Marske fans at full time when they learned that Guisborough had scored two later goals to win 3-1 and officially end Dunston’s slim chances of winning the title. With West Auckland losing to Penrith, there slim hopes were also extinguished. North Shields dropped two points in their 0-0 draw with Durham but Shildon kept up the pressure on the top two by squeezing past Whitley Bay. While Consett didn’t look the same team as the one Marske had faced a few weeks earlier when they were fortunate to win 2-1 despite Consett ending with 9 men, this shouldn’t take anything away from Marske’s performance especially in midfield where Glen Butterworth excelled. However, the plaudits quite rightly went to Josh Macdonald for his hat-trick with 3 superbly taken goals, especially the second and third ones. Marske now have two home games left starting with Bishop Auckland on Saturday 18th April (kick off 3pm), followed by Celtic Nation on Tuesday 21st April (kick off 7.45pm).