Marske United 3 Norton and Stockton Ancients 1
After their first win of the season against Seaham Red Star, Marske made 4 changes to the starting line-up as they went in search of their first league win of the season against a Norton side who had sacked manager Adam Rundle after just three games in charge. Into the team came the returning Austin Johnston, making his first appearance of the season, Craig Ruddy, Chris Emms and Nathan Mulligan. Craig Gott was unavailable as he was at a wedding, and Dan Riley, Reece Kelly and Sam Garvie all dropped to the bench. Marske lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and won a corner in the opening minute which saw a great delivery into the box that was just missed by stand-in skipper Adam Wheatley. On 8 minutes Jamie Owens used his strength to out-muscle Matthew Lovegreen but his curling shot from just inside the box went just wide. Two minutes later, ex-Marske winger Harrison Davies came within inches of giving the away side the league with a clever chip from the edge of the box that went just over the bar with Robert Dean beaten.
As the game approached the half hour mark, referee Suchecki chose to ignore the assistant referee’s flag for a foul on Owens but then took the advice of his other assistant just seconds later as Wheatley was penalised for handball. The resulting deep free kick from Davies was headed just wide by the stretching Jamie Poole. The referee was upsetting the home fans and appeared to miss an elbow to the back of the head from Poole on Owens just outside the Norton box. On 32 minutes Marske had the best chance of the half but keeper Michael Thackeray did superbly to save a low, hard shot from Owens with his feet as the vocal Poole appealed for offside. Slowly but surely Marske were getting the upper hand and the next chance fell to Ruddy who beat two men and cut in from the left but his shot went wide. Seconds later, Liam O’Sullivan, who was getting forward at every opportunity, raced into the box and beat Nicky Martin but his on target shot was deflected over the bar by Lovegreen. From the resulting corner Emms played the ball short to Ruddy and with only one Norton player trying to prevent the corner being taken short, Ruddy was able to deliver a pin-point cross which Wheatley headed home from just outside the 6 yard box.
Half Time: Marske 1 Norton 0
Norton made a change before the second half started with Daniel Ballantyne replacing Matthew Pennal who had struggled to get into the game. The first opportunity of the second half fell to Marske but Mulligan’s looping header from an Emms cross went just over the bar. On 54 minutes Ruddy tried his luck from distance but was unable to keep his shot down. With the clock approaching the hour mark, Marske assistant manager Nathan Haslam made his first change with Riley replacing Emms. On 61 minutes Ryan Braithwaite flashed an effort across goal but there was no Norton player able to connect; the chance coming after the referee missed a blatant foul on Riley who had his shorts pulled. Marske made a double change on 64 minutes with Ryan Grier replacing Josh Myers, who was struggling with injury and Sam Garvie replacing Craig Ruddy. There was no prizes for guessing who the first player booked was as the combative Johnston was shown a yellow card for dragging back Braithwaite. Norton tried to get back into the game by replacing Joe Wilson with Adam Cocks before Ballantyne shot across the face of the goal and Marcus Laing shot wide after the Marske defence were slow to close down the Norton skipper. With both teams struggling to create any clear cut chances and the game seemingly destined for 1-0 the last 9 minutes saw 3 further goals. On 81 minutes Owens played a through ball to Riley and with Poole shouting it was his ball the Marske sub got there first to prod the ball towards goal; it looked like his next touch had taken the ball too far but Riley managed to get there a split second before Thackeray and was able to push the ball past him before slotting into an empty net. Norton got a goal back with 5 minutes remaining when Dean failed to connect with a punch clear from a corner and the ball fell to the grateful Poole who lifted it into the top of the net from close range. Just as it looked as if Marske would suffer a nervy last few minutes the 2 goal lead was restored when Owens showed his strength to out-battle Daniel O’Brien and though the full back got back he was unable to clear fully and Garvie’s square pass set up Butterworth who curled an accurate, low shot into the bottom corner.
Full Time: Marske United 3 Norton and Stockton Ancients 1
Marske: Dean, Myers (Grier), O’Sullivan, Butterworth, Colquhoun, Wheatley, Ruddy (Garvie), Johnston, Emms (Riley), Owens, Mulligan
Subs (not used): Kelly, Brunskill
Norton: Thackeray, O’Brien, Jackson, Laing (Smith), Poole, Lovegreen, Pennal (Ballantyne), Braithwaite, Martin, Wilson (Cocks), Davies
Subs (not used): Morley, Redman
This was a far from vintage performance from Marske in a game that always looked like one goal would settle it. However, a crazy last 9 minutes gave the game a look of an entertaining game, which, for the most part, it wasn’t. However, a win is a win and Marske secured their first league victory of the season against a battling Norton side who showed real character which should see them gain their first win of the season soon.