Marine 2-3 Buxton
Mariners undone by ten-man Bucks at MTA...
Marine threw away a two-goal lead as old foes Buxton secured all three points in Crosby despite being reduced to ten men midway through the first half. Manager Tommy Lawson made two changes to the side which drew with Nantwich Town in midweek, Liam Tongue and Dominic Reid replacing Peter Wylie and Phil Baker as the Mariners were short-benched once again.
Hopes of a repeat of last season's final day ten-goal thriller between the sides were quickly extinguished in a quiet opening quarter of an hour in which both teams struggled to produce play of any great quality in the final third.
The in-form Josh Amis was unable to hit the target with a header which dropped harmlessly over the Crosender Road crossbar from Reid's deep cross to the back post, before the game sparked into life midway through the opening period.
James Murray, deputising at right-back, whipped a cross in from the right flank and Amis made a fine run across his marker before producing a deft touch to find the bottom corner, the striker notching his fifth goal in four games in the process.
Tempers flared four minutes later as Tom Field and ex-Doncaster Rovers midfielder Ravenhill clashed on the halfway line. Ravenhill, certainly no stranger to a card throughout his career, appeared to use his head in somewhat ungentlemanly fashion, referee Swift quickly and correctly dismissing the Buxton skipper.
The Mariners capitalised on their numerical advantage just a minute later as Liam Tongue did well to keep the ball in play on the left touchline. Tongue stepped inside a red-shirted defender's challenge before crossing right-footed, his low delivery evading Amis' attempt to connect but deceiving banana-bedecked Buxton custodian Budtz and nestling in the far corner to put the Mariners seemingly in control.
However the Bucks halved their deficit ten minutes before the break, a ball across the edge of the Marine box finding the excellent Oyibo in space. The young winger easily stepped inside Field's challenge and was denied by a strong one-handed parry from Martin Fearon, but the ball fell kindly to Hardy and the division's leading scorer made no mistake from eight yards.
The Mariners began the second half brightly a sought to restore their two-goal cushion, Tongue's 40-yard run into opposition territory ending with a piledriver which Budtz managed to parry to safety at full stretch.
The Whites continued to press and Danny Mitchley dispossessed Maguire on the right-hand touchline, the skipper's audacious chip over the giant Budtz drifting narrowly over the bar and landing on the roof of the College Road net.
Mitchley then combined well with Murray who jinked his way to the byline, his cut-back being prodded narrowly wide by Amis as Budtz hesitated after a defender's rather casual touch.
Unfortunately for the Mariners this pressure counted for nought as the Bucks promptly forced a corner of their own in the 56th minute, the initial header was blocked but the rebound fell to former Mickleover striker Grayson who fired home from six yards to level matters.
Furthermore, the visitors came close to taking the lead on the hour mark as the tireless and impressive Hardy left Kenny Strickland for dead on the left flank and cut in towards goal, but Fearon was equal to his low shot and made the block with his legs.
The controversial moment of the half came midway through it, as the Mariners were denied a seemingly “stonewall” penalty. Reid's run into the Buxton box was curtailed by an apparent shove in the back, but rather than pointing to the spot referee Swift awarded the visitors a free-kick and cautioned Reid to compound the frustration of the MTA faithful.
The Mariners proved their own worst enemies for the remainder of the contest as they conceded possession to the ten men time after time, whilst their attempts to create goalscoring opportunities were thwarted by the well-organised Buxton rearguard.
As the half wore on it appeared increasingly likely that winning goal would be scored by the Bucks rather than the Mariners, and having given the ball away cheaply in midfield for the umpteenth time only a tremendous last-ditch challenge from the diligent Strickland prevented Hardy from grabbing a late winner.
However the Derbyshire outfit were not to be denied and with two minutes remaining another set-piece proved the Mariners' undoing. A ball played in from the Buxton left was met by a scuffed clearance in the heart of the home defence, and Maguire duly fired home from 12 yards to give the visitors the lead.
The Whites were unable to muster a response as time elapsed, and so sank to a disappointing loss which leaves them firmly entrenched in the bottom four.
The Mariners now face an Easter Monday trip to Moss Lane to face table-toppers Altrincham in a 3pm kick-off.
Marine: Martin Fearon, James Murray, Liam Tongue, Adam Hughes, Kenny Strickland, Billy Smart, Michael Brewster, Tom Field (Tony Donaldson 72), Danny Mitchley (c), Josh Amis, Dominic Reid.
Unused subs: Phil Baker, Niall Watson, Germano Mendes. Cautions: Amis, Mitchley, Reid.
Buxton: Jan Budtz, Josh Meade, Danny Amos (Greg Young 30), Joe Maguire, Nico De Girolamo, Ricky Ravenhill (c), Jude Oyibo (Niall Doran 74), Joe McGee, Bradley Grayson (Alastair Taylor 60), Liam Hardy, Luke Hinsley.
Unused subs: Matt Baker, Andy McWilliams. Cautions: Meade, Hardy, Maguire. Sent Off: Ravenhill.
Goals: Marine; Amis (22), Tongue (27)
Buxton; Hardy (34), Grayson (56), Maguire (88)
Referee: Mr Tom Swift
Assistants: Mr Simon Robinson and Mr Luis Griffiths