With Liam O’Sullivan away and Darren Hollingsworth injured Marske manager Carl Jarrett was forced into two changes in defence in a game that Marske had to win to keep up the pressure at the top of the table. Into the team came Dom Gamble, at left back, for a rare start and Tom Bott into the centre of defence. The rest of the team was unchanged from the superb victory away at Consett the previous Saturday. Bishop Auckland were in mid table prior to the game having won 9 and lost 10 of their away games.
The game got off to the best possible start for the home side who led on 82 seconds when Danny Brunskill let fly from 15 yards with a left foot shot that simply flew past the stationery Scott Pocklington in the Bishop Auckland goal. It got even better for Marske on 4 minutes as they doubled their lead. An attack down the left saw Jamie Owens ease past David Mitchell at right back and deliver a cross into the 6 yard box which gave Reece Kelly the simple task of sweeping the ball home. Marske were dominant and it was only the assistant referee’s raised flag that prevented it being 3-0 after just 8 minutes. Craig Gott eased past Glen Lane and pulled the ball back to Owens who saw his shot from the edge of the box spilled by Pocklington. The loose ball fell to Kelly who slotted into an empty net but the flag was raised and the goal disallowed. While Brunskill was undoubtedly offside, the call against Kelly was a tighter one but the goal was chalked off. Pocklington was called into action again on 10 minutes when Owens played a lovely ball out wide to Kelly who neatly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Gott; in turn the skipper played the ball back to Kelly who saw his cross-shot tipped over by the keeper. It was all Marske in the opening stages and after Josh Macdonald was fouled by Mitchell, the free kick from Macdonald was headed into the ground and over his own bar by Jordan Galloway. On 14 minutes Bishop Auckland had their first foray into the Marske half which ended with a shot from Andrew Johnson that looked close but ended up going out for a throw in. A minute later, Macdonald showed great skill to make space on the edge of the box for a shot but his effort was too high and went over the bar. At the mid-way point in the half Glen Butterworth warmed the hands of Pocklington with a well struck shot on the half volley which was well saved. On 25 minutes, the away side halved the deficit when Robert Dean pulled off a magnificent save to prevent an effort from Graham Irving going in; unfortunately for the Marske keeper the loose ball fell to the predatory Johnson who made no mistake from close range. It got worse for Marske on 31 minutes when the home side didn’t do enough to prevent a cross from the left from Adam Cocks which was flicked on by John Butler which slightly changed the path of the ball and Adam Wheatley sliced his attempted clearance past Dean, who could do nothing to stop the goal. As half time approaching it looked like the hard work of the first 4 minutes had been undone and the teams would go into the break level. However, Marske had other ideas and when Kelly won a corner from Cocks, the ball was only partially cleared which allowed Butterworth to hook the
ball back into the danger area. The away defence were statuesque but Brunskill was awake to the chance and with no defender near was able to hook the ball past Pocklington to restore Marske’s lead. It got even better in the first minute of injury time when Kelly did superbly to keep the ball in play and pass to Butterworth who eased past the giant frame of Andrew Mogwo, and flicked a pass into the path of Brunskill who crossed the ball from the edge of the 6 yard box with his unfavoured right foot. The first shot was blocked but the loose ball fell to Owens who made no mistake from just outside the 6 yard box.
Half Time: Marske 4 Bishop Auckland 2
The second half started with Marske on the front foot and on 47 minutes Butterworth dispossessed Mogwo but saw his shot go across goal and out for a goal kick. Three minutes later, Owens played in Macdonald who played a fantastic cross field pass to the advancing Gott who struck his shot wide. On 58 minutes, this topsy-turvy game had another twist when Bishop Auckland reduced the arrears. Wheatley was penalised for climbing on Butler just outside the box and the ensuing free kick was deflected behind for a corner by Gott. The first corner was cleared by Wheatley for a second corner which saw Butler shrug off the attentions of the Marske defence and head past Dean from 6 yards. On 63 minutes Butler was the first player to be booked under the totting up procedure for a foul on Josh Myers. Before Marske nerves could be frayed further the two goal lead was restored thanks to the goal of the game from Owens who timed his run to perfection to chase down a long ball over the top, cut inside two defenders and curled a delightful effort past Pocklington into the top corner. The away side made a change immediately after the goal with Mogwo replaced by Lewis Brown. Brown was in the action immediately, for the wrong reason, as he took out Kelly in mid-air and was booked for his troubles. Kelly was able to continue after treatment but didn’t last much longer and was withdrawn to be replaced by Sam Garvie with Macdonald switching to the left wing, where he started the game, allowing Garvie to play on the right wing. Moments after the switch Macdonald outpaced Mitchell and raced into the box but tried a shot with the outside of his right foot rather than his left and it ended up in the side netting. With 15 minutes remaining Dean had to be on his guard to save well from Butler who got great power on his header from 15 yards while at the other end a goal bound effort from Macdonald was chested to safety by Galloway. With just over 10 minutes remaining, substitute Brown was very lucky to stay on the pitch when he cynically fouled Macdonald but the referee chose to only warn the player rather than issue a second yellow card. With 3 minutes left on the clock Marske had a great chance to seal the victory when Brunskill showed great skills to turn and set up Butterworth but his effort from 15 yards went over the bar. With just a minute left on the clock, there was more heart-stopping action when Brown was fouled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Butler stepped up to take the penalty but Dean diving to his
right pulled off a world class save pushing the ball around the post as Marske sealed the win.
Full Time: Marske 5 Bishop Auckland 3
Marske: Dean, Myers, Gamble, Butterworth, Bott, Wheatley, Macdonald (Hood), Gott, Brunskill, Owens, Kelly (Garvie)
Subs (not used): Wright, Grier
Bishop Auckland: Pocklington, Mitchell, Cocks, Irving, Galloway, Mogwo (Brown), Lane, Thompson, Butler, Johnson, Lavery
Subs (not used): Day, Jobling, Wood, Sakr
This was a thoroughly entertaining game which, coupled with Guisborough’s 4-3 defeat at Morpeth, ensured that Marske ended the day top of the table and ahead of their local rivals who have now finished their fixtures. Marske got off to the best possible start with 2 goals in the first 4 minutes but let the lead slip against a Bishop Auckland side with two top quality strikers. However, Marske’s own quality strikers, Owens and Brunskill ensured that the two goal lead was restored by half time and despite the odd scare, Marske held on to ensure that their title hopes went to their last game of the season. They now face relegated Celtic Nation on Tuesday 21st April (7.45 KO) knowing a win would mean that Shildon had to win their last 3 games of the season to pip them to the title. The title could be won by Marske on Tuesday if they win and Shildon fail to beat Sunderland RCA.