Marine 3-4 Ashton United
Mariners stunned as Robins fly high at MTA...
Marine's poor home form continued as Ashton United prevailed by the odd goal in seven at the Marine Travel Arena. Manager Tommy Lawson made two changes to the side which drew at Matlock as Scott Bakkor and James Murray replaced Michael Brewster and James Edgar.
The visiting Robins enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, and a free-kick from their right saw centre-back Chalmers rise highest but unable to keep his header down as the ball sailed high over the College Road crossbar.
On 15 minutes the Whites enjoyed their first meaningful spell in Ashton territory and Danny Mitchley's flick in the United box brought vociferous appeals for a spot-kick as the ball appeared to strike the hand of a purple-shirted defender, however referee Nield was unmoved.
A minute later and the Mariners forced a corner on the right which was delivered to the back-post, Michael Grogan meeting the quadrant-kick but unable to guide his header on target.
Marine didn't have to wait too long to make the breakthrough as a ball forward was headed as far as Mitchley by Ashton right-back Olapade, dead-eye Danny instinctively half-volleying home from 25 yards with visiting custodian Frith caught out of position, Mitchley grabbing his third goal in as many games in the process.
The Whites almost doubled their lead a few minutes later as Kenny Strickland's venomous volley beat Frith but not the post, Scott Bakkor reached the rebound but Frith recovered well to make a smart block from the ex-Clitheroe man.
Marine continued to press, and Vinny Bailey twisted and turned to create a shooting opportunity, his shot from just outside he box being blocked by a United defender, Mitchley curling the rebound narrowly wide of Frith's left-hand upright.
Seven minutes before the break the Robins came close as danger-man Chadwick's low drive from the corner of the box was palmed wide by the sprawling Ben Barnes low to his left.
The Marine stopper then produced an early save of the season contender to keep his side ahead as a free-kick from the Ashton right was flicked goalward via the head of visiting skipper Lees, Barnes diving back and across toward his near-post to somehow turn the ball past the upright at full stretch.
James Murray then tested Frith with a daisy-cutter from the edge of the box which the United 'keeper was equal to, as the Mariners held a slender lead at the interval.
The Mariners suffered a blow ten minutes into the second period as Mitchley succumbed to injury to be replaced by James Edgar, leaving the Crosby side without a recognised striker on the pitch. Ashton right-back Olapade, having been booked in the opening period, then clattered into Billy Smart leaving the midfielder prostrate, however referee Nield rather mysteriously decided to refrain from issuing the Ashton man with a second yellow card of the evening.
Undeterred, the Mariners doubled their advantage just before the hour-mark as a corner from the right was initially flicked clear by an Ashton defender. Bakkor retrieved possession and laid the ball back to Murray whose cross was met by a looping header from Smart which had Frith back-pedaling in vain, the ball dropping inches below the bar leaving Smart to celebrate in fine style in front of his personal fan-club. Frith collided heavily with the post for his troubles, but was able to continue following treatment.
Smart was withdrawn several minutes later to be replaced by Michael Brewster with the Mariners well-placed to extract a measure of revenge for their recent FA Cup exit at Ashton's hands.
Grogan was doing his bit to keep the Robins at bay with a series of well-timed interventions, however midway through the half the Robins were given the opportunity to halve their deficit from the spot in debatable circumstances. Chadwick reached the right-hand edge of the Marine area and appear to have his shirt pulled by a home defender, referee Nield in consultation with his Assistant deemed the offence to have occurred inside the box and Chadwick stepped up to send Barnes the wrong way from 12 yards.
The Robins' new-found impetus was augmented by shrewd tactical awareness, as they began to attack down their left flank in the final quarter of the contest. Ashton left-back Smalley ran at Kisimba Kisimba, the young defender having been cautioned in the first half, and his low cross to the near-post forced Barnes to kick clear, the Marine rearguard recovering to complete the clearance.
On 73 minutes the visitors were awarded their second penalty-kick of the evening, this time the decision being much more clear-cut. United striker Tomsett isolated Kisimba and was tripped inside the area, Barnes guessing correctly and getting a glove to Chadwick's spot-kick but being unable to prevent the ball nestling in the Crosender rigging.
The turnaround was seemingly complete with ten minutes remaining, the home defence again being the masters of their own downfall as a misplaced pass allowed Platt to feed Johnson, the Robins' striker waltzing around Barnes to slot home into an empty net.
To their great credit Tommy Lawson's troops took just five minutes to restore parity with a fine goal. Excellent approach play saw Strickland find Bailey just outside the box, the midfielder slipping the ball through for Murray to steer past Frith from 12 yards to the delight of the home faithful.
In an incredible climax to the game it was now the Mariners who sought the game-winning goal and Brewster's well-struck 25-yarder was parried by Frith, Murray sniffing the rebound but the ex-Newton winger headed wide under heavy pressure from a visiting defender.
Unfortunately from a Mariner's perspective there was one final twist in the tale as the contest reached the 90th minute. Another Ashton attack down their left flank resulted in a low centre only being half-cleared as far as Lees just outside the box, the midfielder running on to the ball to fire home through a crowded area and break Marine hearts.
Time elapsed to leave the Mariners wondering what might have been, and they will no doubt be disappointed to lose a game they were seemingly in control of midway through the second half.
The Mariners make the long cross-country trek to the Turnbull Ground on Saturday (3pm ko) to face Whitby Town in their next EvoStik Premier Division fixture.
Marine: Ben Barnes, Kisimba Kisimba, James Short, Adam Hughes, Michael Grogan, Billy Smart (Michael Brewster 65), James Murray, Kenny Strickland, Danny Mitchley (c) (James Edgar 55), Vincent Bailey, Scott Bakkor (Tom Field 78).
Unused subs: Peter Wylie, John Shaw. Cautions: Kisimba, Murray.
Ashton United: Ashley Frith, Lanre Olapade, Dominic Smalley, Joshua Granite, Aaron Chalmers, Nicky Platt, Mark Lees (c), Liam Tomsett, Alex Johnson, Danny Pilkington, Matthew Chadwick.
Unused subs: Oscar Durnin, John Roberts, Richard Smith, Max Povey, Jody Banim. Cautions: Olapade, Tomsett.
Goals: Marine; Mitchley (20), Smart (59), Murray (85)
Ashton United; Chadwick (pens 67, 73), Johnson (80), Lees (90)
Referee: Mr Jack Nield
Assistants: Mr Stephen White and Mr Shaun Mohan