Marine 1-1 Stafford Rangers
Mariners and Rangers all-square at MTA...
Marine shared the spoils with old foes Stafford Rangers in Crosby, the visitors ending the game with ten men following Kieran Morris' 75th minute dismissal. Manager Tommy Lawson made two changes to the side which had earned a point against Rushall last weekend, as Florian Da Silva and Vinny Bailey were recalled in place of Niall Watson and the suspended Tony Donaldson.
The Mariners began brightly as Danny Mitchley tried a speculative effort on the turn from 22 yards, but his shot flew high over the College Road crossbar.
Vinny Bailey then nodded the ball through for Mitchley to latch onto and advance toward the Stafford box, the Marine skipper trying to catch visiting custodian Whitehouse off-guard but dragging his early left-footed shot well wide of target.
Whitehouse's attempted clearance following Marine's next foray into Stafford territory inadvertently cannoned into his colleague Morris, Mitchley seeking to capitalise but Morris recovered well to shepherd the ball back to his 'keeper.
Morris then threatened at the other end in Stafford's first meaningful attempt on goal, the centre-back rising highest to meet a cross from the Rangers right but his header flew a couple of yards over Martin Fearon's crossbar.
The visitors forced a corner midway through the half which eventually fell for Sherratt to cut inside onto his right foot, but the midfielder could only drag his low shot wide from the edge of the box.
The Whites were next to attack in an entertaining and somewhat end-to-end opening period, recent signing Spencer Myers sending a rising shot a couple of yards over the bar from outside the box.
The “Boro” took their turn to threaten once more, a teasing cross swung over from their left somehow failing to receive the decisive touch as it eluded three onrushing orange-shirted attackers.
In similar fashion James Short's toe-poke across the face of goal ran out of play before Florian Da Silva could apply the coup de grace, Short having beaten his marker on the left edge of box.
Just after the half-hour mark Stafford's next attack saw a low cross-shot blocked by Phil Baker as far as Rangers' striker McDonald on the edge of the box, the much-travelled Montserratian's drive being deflected but Fearon made an acrobatic stop to push the ball away from danger.
Neat interplay between the Mariners then created their best chance of the half as Bailey showed a good touch to find Da Silva on the right, his first-time cross reaching the unmarked Mitchley 10 yards out whose header dropped wide of goal.
Just before the break the Mariners found themselves behind as McDonald received a pass to the edge of the Marine area, his well-struck shot beating Fearon's attempt to parry low to his right and the ball finding the corner of the Crosender Road rigging.
In the last action of the half Myers whipped in a free-kick from the Marine right which Mitchley headed goalward but Whitehouse was well-positioned to hold on his goal-line.
The second half began in similar fashion to the way the first had ended as Michael Brewster raced down the right flank to cross for Mitchley, but the skipper's header was plucked out of the air by Whitehouse who made a fine stop away to his right.
However unlike the first-half the action then became rather tepid with few scoring chances being created during a period of stoppages and substitutions.
For Stafford, veteran striker Hawley's sharp turn on the left of the area allowed him a shooting opportunity, Fearon diving to his left to parry the former Stourbridge hotshot's effort with the rebound being cleared to safety by the Marine defence.
The Whites then came close at the other end as a free-kick awarded 30 yards from goal saw Kenny Strickland's shot bounce awkwardly in front of Whitehouse who failed to collect, Mitchley attempting to force home the rebound but a Rangers' defender recovered to clear off the line to the frustration of the MTA faithful.
With Da Silva and John McGrath having been replaced by Dominic Reid and Niall Watson, the Mariners were now threatening more centrally as they pressed a rather shaky-looking Stafford centre-back pairing, and with fifteen minutes remaining this change in tactic paid dividends. Confusion reigned in the Rangers rearguard as Mitchley got goalside of Morris before being felled in the area by the Stafford man, referee Nield pointing to the spot before dismissing Morris for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Mitchley picked himself up to despatch the spot-kick with his customary aplomb and level the contest.
Despite their numerical disadvantage it was the visitors who should have retaken the lead just two minutes later, as winger Thompson-Brown burst past Myers and into the box on the right, his low ball across goal reaching opposite winger Abadaki who somehow blazed over the bar from 8 yards out with the goal at his mercy.
The final ten minutes of the game saw plenty of effort on both sides but without a winning goal looking likely, however as the game entered added time chances arrived at either end in a dramatic finale.
Abadaki improved on his previous effort as his low shot from just outside the box looked to be creeping in at the near post, but Fearon was quickly down low to his right to hold securely.
In a thrilling but ultimately disappointing climax to the contest it was the Mariners who could, and should, have snatched victory. Reid found space on the right to advance before squaring to the unmarked Mitchley whose sidefooted finish was blocked by Whitehouse's outstretched leg. The ball rebounded to the left of the box and was crossed low back into the mix, receiving a touch which Whitehouse again blocked with his feet, the rebound this time falling to Mitchley ten yards out who could only slice his left-footed shot wide of goal with the last kick of the game.
Thus the Mariners were left to rue missed opportunities at the final whistle as they were forced to settle for just their ninth home league point of the season.
The Mariners travel to bottom-markers Sutton Coldfield Town on Tuesday evening in another important EvoStik Premier fixture, kick-off at Coles Lane is at 7:45pm.
Marine: Martin Fearon, Kenny Strickland, James Short, Adam Hughes (Peter Wylie 66), Phil Baker, Spencer Myers, Florian Da Silva (Niall Watson 65), Michael Brewster, Danny Mitchley (c), Vinny Bailey, John McGrath (Dominic Reid 65).
Unused subs: Liam Tongue, Charlie Duke. Cautions: Strickland.
Stafford Rangers: Adam Whitehouse, Samuel Griffiths, Kieren Westwood, Kieran Morris, Jordan Brown, Josh Craddock (c), Osebi Abadaki, Jack Sherratt, Karl Hawley (Levi Reid 76), Massiah McDonald, Robert Thompson-Brown.
Unused subs: Daniel Westwood, Joe Thomas, Izak Reid, Bradley Craswell. Cautions: Brown, Thompson-Brown. Sent Off: Morris.
Goals: Marine; Mitchley (pen 75)
Stafford Rangers; McDonald (44)
Referee: Mr Jack Nield
Assistants: Mr Karl Buckley and Mr Jamie Kilgallon