Marine 3-2 City of Liverpool
Strickland Stunner Puts Paid to Purps at MTA...
Marine overcame neighbours City of Liverpool in a thrilling Liverpool Senior Cup 1st Round tie thanks to Kenny Strickland's late winner in a proverbial “game of two halves” at the Marine Travel Arena. Tommy Lawson kept faith with the starting eleven which had secured a much-needed league win at Rushall Olympic on Saturday for the first-ever meeting between the Mariners and the fledgling Hallmark Security League outfit.
In front of Marine's largest attendance of the season, swelled by a healthy travelling contingent and considerable local interest, the Crosby club were first to threaten. In the 8th minute a ball played in to skipper Danny Mitchley on the edge of the CoL box saw the hotshot display instant control and a sharp turn before volleying goalwards, but visiting custodian McCall was well-positioned and held securely.
However just two minutes later and the Purps were gifted the chance to take an early lead, an attempted clearance from the Marine defence cannoning into CoL striker Peterson who advanced on goal before calmly beating Martin Fearon from 12 yards to the delight of the travelling hordes.
The early breakthrough saw the Purps begin to play with confidence and composure, whilst the Mariners looked somewhat off the pace in a first half of few chances.
Midway through the half the Mariners spurned a half-chance and were punished by CoL who extended their lead. A Marine foray saw Michael Brewster play the ball wide to Vinny Bailey whose cross to the back-post was nodded back into the danger area by George Lomax, Brewster continuing his run into the box but connecting only with fresh-air as he swivelled to shoot from 12 yards.
The Purps countered quickly and a cross was only half-cleared as far as Connolly, the ball dropping invitingly for the CoL striker who volleyed goalward from 22 yards. Despite Connolly's effort being well-struck Fearon looked to be in position to make a relatively straightforward stop, however the ball squirmed underneath the experienced 'keeper's body and found the Crosender Road rigging, leaving Connolly to celebrate in front of the jubilant visiting supporters.
Chances remained few and far between for the remainder of the half, Bailey curling a shot a couple of yards over the bar just before the break for the Whites as the visitors took a two-goal lead into the break.
With the MTA faithful clamouring for the introduction of genuine attacking threat, manager Tommy Lawson duly obliged as wingers James Murray and Florian Da Silva replaced Bailey and Chris Lomax at the start of the second period.
An early free-kick was whipped in from the right toward the near post by Kenny Strickland, the ball skipping off the greasy turf in the squally conditions but McCall safely held.
At the other end Connolly came close to grabbing his second as his free-kick curled over the home wall and beat Fearon's dive, the ball striking the base of the left-hand upright and behind to the Mariners' relief.
The Mariners found their way back into the game just before the hour mark as another Strickland free-kick towards the near-post fell for George Lomax whose initial effort was blocked by McCall, but the young striker was alert to prod home the rebound from close range.
With the game becoming stretched as the Mariners sought their equaliser McGrath fired a rising drive over the bar for CoL. Matty Williams, one of three ex-Mariners in the visitors' squad, then sent in a dipping volley which Fearon dealt with well, patting the ball down before gathering comfortably.
The Sefton-based “City” spurned a gilt-edged chance to all but seal victory with 15 minutes remaining as neat approach play allowed winger McGrath a sight of goal but he couldn't provide the finish to match the move as the ball flew narrowly wide of target.
However the Mariners were much-improved from their first-half showing and deservedly levelled the tie on 78 minutes, a cross being cleared as far as Murray 25 yards out whose low drive was deflected and arced just inside McCall's left-hand post.
Both sides had chances to win the game the game in the closing stages with the Purps coming close seven minutes from time. A cross to the back-post saw veteran defender Robinson's downward header destined to break Marine hearts, but Fearon was quickly across his line to make a vital block with his shins and the Whites were able to clear their lines.
The Mariners however had the impetus and sensed the completion of a remarkable comeback against their lower-tier opponents. Mitchley and Lomax combined effectively for the former to shoot low from the edge of the CoL area, McCall off-balance but able to kick away Mitchley's well-struck shot.
Ex-Mariner Shacklock then fired wide from the right-side of the box for CoL before Murray's effort from distance at the other end was directed straight at McCall who held securely.
With tensions rising and the tie looking likely to be decided by a penalty shoot-out, the Mariners finally managed to poke their noses ahead in the 88th minute with a goal fit to win any game. Strickland produced a fine challenge to break up a CoL attack midway inside the Marine half and shrugged off a purple-shirted challenge as he carried the ball over halfway. Strickland continued his serene progress towards goal and, having assessed his options, stepped inside a defender's challenge 25 yards out before curling a sumptuous low finish past McCall's despairing dive and inches inside the left-hand upright to spark joyous scenes among the Marine contingent.
Lomax then curled a 25-yarder inches past the angle of post and crossbar as the game entered added time, before the visitors' frustrations boiled over in the dying embers of the contest.
Shacklock's late challenge on Liam Tongue as the Marine centre-back cleared was missed by referee Pettitt, and as Tongue lay prostrate Shacklock inexplicably sullied his club's commendable performance on the evening by appearing to stamp on Tongue. Having been alerted by his Assistant, the arbiter duly dismissed the diminutive striker who had been deemed surplus to the Crosby club's requirements earlier in the season.
Time elapsed to bring a thrilling cup-tie to a conclusion, as the Mariners' much-improved second-half showing proved just enough to earn them a place in the last-eight of the competition.
The Mariners now turn their attention to this season's Buildbase FA Trophy as they travel to face Whitby Town in the 1st Qualifying Round on Saturday, kick-off at the Turnbull Ground is at 3pm.
Marine: Martin Fearon, Peter Wylie, James Edgar, Kenny Strickland, Liam Tongue, Billy Smart, Vinny Bailey (Florian Da Silva 46), Michael Brewster, Danny Mitchley (c), George Lomax, Chris Lomax (James Murray 46).
Unused subs: Adam Hughes, Dominic Marie, George Hassall. Cautions: Smart.
City of Liverpool: Graeme McCall, Luke Denson, Francis Foy (Joseph Camozzi 63), Kevin McEllin, Daniel Dalton (c), Craig Robinson, Dean Shacklock, Matthew Williams, Thomas Peterson (Karl Noon 19), John Connolly, John McGrath.
Unused subs: Steven Jones, Ross McDowell, Paxton Ballard. Cautions: Shacklock, Williams. Sent Off: Shacklock.
Goals: Marine; G Lomax (59), Murray (78), Strickland (88)
City of Liverpool. Peterson (10), Connolly (22)
Referee: Mr Joe Pettitt
Assistants: Mr Mark Ryder and Mr Stuart Morland