Marine 2-1 Widnes
Mariners sink Widnes at MTA to reach Senior Cup Final...
Marine overcame Hallmark League outfit Widnes to secure their berth in the Liverpool Senior Cup Final in an entertaining encounter at the Marine Travel Arena. The squads of both clubs were depleted due to injury and ineligibility for the tie and Marine Manager Tommy Lawson made four changes to the side defeated at Sutton Coldfield Town last week, as Adam Hughes, Liam Tongue, Tom Field and Dominic Reid replaced Phil Baker, John McGrath, Michael Brewster and the departed Vinny Bailey.
The opening exchanges saw the Whites twice test veteran custodian Mottram from free-kicks, Kenny Strickland whipping the ball towards the near post from 25 yards but Mottram dived away to left to hold securely.
From another set-piece Strickland's chipped ball into the Widnes box was glanced toward the bottom corner of the Crosender Road rigging by the returning Adam Hughes, Mottram producing an even better save to palm the ball behind at full-stretch for a Marine corner which came to nought.
The visitors then created and urned a gilt-edged chance to take the lead in the 8th minute as striker Hodkinson latched onto a through ball but dragged his shot narrowly past the right-hand post with just Martin Fearon to beat.
Widnes came even closer ten minutes later as midfielder Doran's fine strike from 22 yards received the merest of fingertip touches from the flying Fearon as the ball crashed against the crossbar and away to safety.
The Mariners, seeking their first win in ten games promptly countered and Florian Da Silva's cross to the near post was met by Danny Mitchley's attempted volley, but the in-form skipper couldn't connect as intended as the ball rolled wide of target.
An open contest saw more goalmouth action around the half-hour mark as Banister's shot on target from just outside the box was safely gathered by Fearon, before Doran tried his luck once more and forced Fearon into a smart parry diving low to his left.
The Mariners responded as Dominic Reid advanced in a three-on-three counter, feeding the ball wider to Da Silva whose shot from 15 yards flashed well-wide of the far post.
The Widnes number 8 sent a free-kick high over the bar with the last kick of the half to leave an closely-contested game goalless at the interval.
An action-packed start to the second-half saw the Whites threaten first as Mitchley's glancing header from a free-kick flew narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
However the Crosby club found the opening goal on 54 minutes as Liam Tongue bust into the Widnes area and prodded goalwards as Mottram raced off his line, Tongue being brought down by the 'keeper and referee Issawi was well-placed to award the spot-kick. Mitchley found the College Road net from 12 yards with a precise penalty despite Mottram guessing correctly.
Marine's best move of the game almost brought a second goal just two minutes later as neat approach play between Mitchley and Reid afforded a chance for Billy Smart, however the off-balance midfielder couldn't provide the purchase required to beat Mottram who parried low to his left. The ball eventually reached Tongue who lashed a low shot a couple of yards wide of target from just inside the area.
The Whites were now looking a much stronger outfit than their in-form visitors and should have doubled their lead as Reid caught centre-back Burke in possession and raced goalwards, his first shot striking Mottram's right-hand post with just the 'keeper to beat and Reid contrived to miss the rebound from eight yards with the goal at his mercy as he failed to connect effectively with a sidefoot finish, Mottram recovering his position to gather.
As so often happens, the Mariners were punished for their profligacy as Widnes promptly earned a penalty-kick of their own, ex-Mariner Towey tumbling under pressure from Da Silva. Towey picked himself up to tuck the spot-kick away despite Fearon's best efforts to leave the tie in the balance.
The Whites drove themselves onto the front-foot once more, Mottram fielding daisy-cutters from Smart and Mitchley in their next two attacks.
Mitchley's low cross-shot from an acute angle midway through the half beat both the far post and the onrushing Reid, however Lawson's troops were to grab a deserved winner 12 minutes from time, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances.
A corner played in from the Marine right saw Smart beaten in the air by the Widnes defence, unfortunately for the visitors the ball ricocheted against another yellow-shirted defender and was prodded over the line by the luckless Fielding as he tried to recover his position.
Widnes failed to test Fearon in the closing stages as the Mariners almost added a third, Mitchley and Tongue exchanging passes for the latter to shoot inches wide with a left-footed effort.
Time elapsed as the Mariners reached the County FA final for the first time in ten seasons with a victory which will hopefully provide a confidence-boost ahead of the latter stages of the league campaign.
The Mariners entertain Halesowen Town in an important EvoStik Premier fixture this Saturday, kick-off at the MTA is at 3pm.
Marine: Martin Fearon, Peter Wylie, James Short, Adam Hughes, Kenny Strickland, Billy Smart, Liam Tongue, Tom Field, Danny Mitchley (c), Dominic Reid, Florian Da Silva.
Unused subs: Phil Baker, Germano Mendes. Cautions: Tongue, Field.
Widnes: Richard Mottram, Dylan Sweeney, Joseph Fielding, Philip Doran, Kevin Pollard (c), Michael Burke, Kevin Towey, Sean Myler, Daniel Laverty (William Webb 78), Ben Hodkinson, Jack Banister.
Unused subs: Jay Roberts. Cautions: Doran, Burke.
Goals: Marine; Mitchley (pen 54), own goal (78)
Widnes; Towey (pen 58)
Referee: Mr Daniel Issawi
Assistants: Mr Kieran Johnson and Mr Liam Ockleshaw