Marske United 2 - 0 Bradford Town
Saturday 3rd February 2018
In the end it was one match too many for the lads from Bradford Town, who nevertheless did their club, the Western League and the competition proud throughout the day before bowing out of the FA Vase for another season writes Kerry Miller.
Two goals from home striker Danny Earl were enough to give his side a place in Monday’s last eight draw on a day which showed showed no signs of improving and in fact deteriorated as the game went on. Danny Greaves’ side found themselves under intense pressure almost from the word go as Vase favourites Marske continued their quest for a league and national competition double and only good fortune and resolute defending kept the Wiltshire side in the mix although the best side won on the day.
Marske-by-Sea is a large village to the east of Middlesbrough which stretches down to the North Sea and is dwarfed by the larger town of Redcar, almost attached to it by the horse racing track which many have heard of down in the west but possibly few have visited or indeed knew where to find it. The home ground is rather grandly called the GER Stadium and is homely and basic as so many Northern League grounds are while being significantly second hand in some areas. To the trained eye at first it reminds those of a certain vintage of Clevedon Town’s old Teignmouth Road home with what looks like a temporary structure just outside the ground which houses the clubhouse and was completely rammed before during and after the match. A mixture of older and newly built houses enclose it on two sides while the village bowls club is behind a selection of what look like derelict buildings adjacent to the dressing rooms. These, it has to be said, were not on a par with any which Western League players can be used to as they have the appearance of huge, damp rabbit hutches but none of that can detract from what was a warm welcome at what is one of the league’s recently successful clubs. There are three individual covered areas, one of which is tucked into a corner similar to that at Sherborne Town and despite it being a village some way from anywhere they have a good following for their club, the name of which is actually pronounced ‘Mask’.
There are a row of unused tennis courts close by, not unlike those at Shepton Mallet and the village is not short of drinking establishments, a number of which were patronised by the travelling Bradford army who, it is reported, made good use of the all night bar at the hotel on the way up and seemingly carried on to kick-off time.
Marske went into the game in third place in the Northern League Division One, some 21 points adrift of leaders Morpeth Town but with a staggering seven games in hand. North Shields are second but have played two games more and with the rest needing snookers it would seem that another title stab may well be stymied by what could well end up as being a May trip to Wembley.
The home side started well with Earl going close within a minute and when Alex Monks went through the back of Leon Carling three minutes later Town were already on the back foot. Player-manager Danny Greaves, forced to don the gloves due to Charlie Phillips’ suspension following his dismissal at Newport IOW, saved well from Craig Gott before Town’s first foray into home territory. Karim Rendall found room to sling over a cross but Mark Wall just missed out and from the breakaway Marske soon realised there was room to be had down the flanks. Both Liam O’Sullivan and the impressive left wing Curtis Round slung in crosses and from one, Earl stabbed home the opener, despite Greaves’ parry, it rolling across the line just short of the half hour mark.
Greaves then brought off a diving stop to deny Chris Peck to close out the half on an increasingly dank day in Cleveland.
After the break Town were looking to find a way back into the game which they had largely played second fiddle in, but that was crushed within a minute as Earl showed no little skill in flicking home a left wing cross to make it 2-0. Up front for Town, Sam Jordan and Dan Cottle did plenty of work but did not see enough of the ball in the final third to cause the home defence too much trouble although Rendall’s strength and Jordan’s pace in counter-attack meant Marske could not relax at any time. Monks found space on the edge of the box but mistimed his shot and from a short corner Cottle drove wide and as Town enjoyed their best spell midway through the second half Monls again tested Rob Dean but he saved comfortably. Gott then beat Greaves with a half volley but the ball was hacked away by Ritchie Chandler before Greaves saved well from Mikey Roberts.
Just on the whistle Round slung over another in a long series of inch pewrfect crosses from the left but Earl spurned the chance of a Vase hat-trick by somehow nodding wide when left open, but it mattered none as the favourites were through to the last eight draw where they will be joined by Melksham Town who fly the lone Western League flag on Feb 24.
For Bradford Town, their round the world odyssey has come to an end but they have made friends and played some superb football, beating some unlikely odds over the water in Newport, but they now look to get stuck in to the league fixtures where they have only lost twice in 21 games to date, beginning with a visit from Bridport on Saturday.