Narrow loss in Season Opener.
Marine hosted Irlam Steel in the season opener on Sunday. Both managers admitted to a few nerves as the game was a step up in quality for both sides.
The early stages were a bit frantic with both sides showing lots of energy but little or no composure on the ball. The lively Joe Vernon however nearly broke the deadlock with a useful 1v1 shot that was well saved by Modlinsky.
It was Irlam who settled quickest however and they began to exploit the pace of their forwards with some decent balls in behind and between the Mariners centre halfs. It was from this likely source that the opener was scored when Tim Cavanagh mis-read a left wing cross and deflected goalwards for a 1-0 deficit.
A second came shortly afterwards after a decent set-piece from the visitors.
This galvanised Marine slightly and they began to string a few passes together but without the fluidity they have shown so well in pre-season fixtures. Marine began to exert more and more pressure as the half progressed and they were rewarded with a bullet header from Jay Von Bargen from a corner delivered by Joel Lampkin. With renewed confidence, Marine went into the break 1-2 down but in a reasonably confident mood for the second half.
Marine presed forward from the referees whistle and Irlam seemed content to soak up the pressure and hit the Whites on the break. This was a successful ploy in the main and Irlam forwards and wingers were certainly not backward in using their pace to create one or two useful chances.
During this period Andy Pittounikos was outstanding with an excellent first touch and almost limitless strength in holding off some solid Irlam defenders. He was ably supported by the silky skills of Joe Speed and the energetic Lampkin. It was these three players who combined excellently for Speed to deliver a pinpoint cross to Lampkin who only just failed to force the ball home into an empty net for a deserved equalizer.
With the Irlam sponge soaked to near capacity however, it was almost inevitable that a swift breakaway and a straight ball through the middle which effectively sealed the game for Irlam. The excellent Ryan Cain ran onto the ball and lifted it over the oncoming Cavanagh to head into an empty net.
To their credit though, Marine continued to press. Substitute Danny McWilliam brought a lot of energy to the teams performance and created an opportunity for Pittounikos to poke home a left foot shot with just 30 seconds to go.
Irlam were obviously very happy with the result, but Marine were left wondering what might have been. Obviously disappointed Marine failed to bring their pre-season form with them on Sunday and will be looking to resume something like normal service against Runcorn Linnets on Thursday.