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Goaly Trinity

Gainsborough Trinity 6-2 Marske United (Northern Premier League)

Remarkably it’s my first Pitching In Northern Premier League game of the season. A first visit to Gainsborough in a long while, a ground on a couple of occasions I’ve driven past and had my eye on to visit, tonight’s the night, pending of course, the weather.

It’s clear out, the sun is shining all be it with a little frost on the ground, I’ve taken the dog for a walk and was going to head up to the woods at midday but it felt too muddy on foot, which is always a good sign that tonight’s matches would also survive the frost, instead I stuck to the roads and Bruce got his 10,000 steps in around West Bridgford.

I’ve checked twitter and the lads from Marske have already left their North East seaside homes to head south which is more encouraging signs that the game is on, others locally are being postponed but no sign from Gainsborough of any doubt, I head out at 5pm as the sky darkens towards Newark, along the A46.

Gainsborough Trinity were a football league club between 1896 and 1912, they entered the Northern Premier League as founder members in 1968 before promotion in 2004 had them in the National League North and it’s predeceasing name, the Conference North for fourteen years, the last five has been back in the NPL and they currently sit just outside the playoffs, no thanks to a recent stumble of late.

Marske I know nothing about, apparently formed in 1956, the coastal town is sandwiched between Redcar and Saltburn near Middlesbrough, a Northern League club for many years, it’s their first ever season in the NPL top flight after promotion from the NPL East finishing second last season. Currently struggling in the division, down in the relegation places they do have plenty of games in hand which can see them out of trouble, Curtis Woodhouse is Manager, the former Birmingham City star turned Boxer is a well-known figure at the level, and also previously managed Gainsborough.

Traffic is bad as I hit Newark, it always is at rush hour as cars queue down the ring road to get on the A1, so Sat Nav takes me through the market town itself, down the Lincoln Road and back on to the A46 before heading up through the pretty village of Collingham on the A1133.

The Venue

I’m following the River Trent north for a good twenty minutes before I spot the red lights in the distance of West Burton Power Station, the first sign of life I’ve seen for miles, entering the southern end of Gainsborough I pass an Aldi and Tesco, a McDonalds and the trendy looking Marshall’s Yard which houses a Prezzo & M&S Foodstore.

The town has a population of just 22,000 and it’s eerily quiet, I’m on North Street as I pull up on double yellows outside the Gainsborough Trinity Supporters Club, a flat roofed brick building with a queue of people outside already.

I find parking on the Northolme, a road which passes the back of the stadium, as I walk around the perimeter of the venue, it’s hemmed in by housing, I’m behind the Ping Stand which has a sign stating ‘Players and Officials Entrance Only’ as I’m looking for somewhere to buy a ticket.

Finally reaching the only turnstile open, which is by the side of the packed supporters club, I ask if I can pay by card, I’m directed to the main gates, where a lady zaps me in and gives me a receipt along with a yellow band.

On walking in I’m already in my happy place, a non-league football ground that looks, just like a non-league football ground should, four sides dressed in blue, a low roofed standing area to my right, an open terrace behind the far goal, an iconic curved roof seated area which certainly pre-dates my life span on my left, in fact the whole ground does, bar a modern looking scoreboard in the corner, behind the goal I’m stood near, a high roofed terrace that stretches flag to flag.

It even has a proper non-league stadium name, the Dave Longstaff Martin & Co Arena is the sponsors brandish of ‘the Northolme’ which is a venue where sport has been played, since the 1850’s.

There’s an old boy standing alone behind me, I turn and tell him “I shouldn’t have worried about the pitch tonight” as the wide green surface looks in fine nick, free of frost, he says “they put sand on it” which is the reason it’s held up well. We get chatting and he’s from Grimsby, a Trinity season ticket holder he travels down for every home game but also watches Grimsby Borough and Cleethorpes Town.

I wish him well before heading up to the Ping Stand after grabbing a tea and a snickers for two quid, I’m walking up the steps to the top tier as I’m met by an official, who says I can sit at the top away from trouble.

It’s a cracking view from the press box, high up and central there’s a couple of posts in the way of each goal whilst the corners are also obstructed, but you get a near perfect panorama of the playing surface as the teams do their warm ups, stands mostly empty with the odd dotted fan now taking a pew, terraced houses lining the horizon of the stand opposite.

The Game

The players come out from two separate tunnels, Marske in Canary yellow to my left, Gainsborough in Wimbledon Blue to my right, meeting in the middle to shake hands before kick-off commences, where the home side look immediately comfortable on the ball.

I’ve seen many games at this level where tempo from the off is high, ball exchanging possession as quick as you can say ‘get it down and play’, this isn’t one of those nights, Gainsborough do get it down and play, centre half Dylan Cogill has a peach of a left foot, he’s spraying cross field passes at every opportunity, Bailey Conway in midfield is knocking the ball around with invention, he’s always looking to make things happen.

Only a few minutes have been played as a short back pass sends journeyman striker Clayton Donaldson through on goal, he’s running in at the keeper and should score but prods his shot onto the post, luckily strike partner Liam Waldock is homing in, he nets the rebound to put the home side one up.

It looks comfortable for Gainsborough, but George Horbury has picked up the ball in midfield and is running, still running, he’s found himself running into the box, unchallenged as he’s now attempting to get a shot away, the loose bits have found striker Adam Boyes who does what he does best, the ball nestles home, you can hear a pin drop as I check to see it’s actually gone in, the few Marske supporters cheer, there’s certainly not very many in attendance tonight.

I’m disappointed with the home fans who are equally as quiet, no chanting, plenty of chatting, Marske keeper Roxborough whacks a goal kick straight out of play which would usually get ironic jeers from buoyant home supporters, but nothing, he got away with that one, but I certainly noticed it.

As some home fans start to show frustration following a dominant start only to be pegged back, proceedings take a huge upturn for Gainsborough as Jorge Sikora brings down Jack Dyche on the edge of the area, some think it’s a penalty, the Referee is slow to adjudge that it’s in fact a free kick, but in the meantime he’s already sent the Marske defender off for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Sikora trots back head down towards the tunnel.

That gives the hosts more emphasis and they control the latter stages of the half without really penetrating the visiting barrier, the boards gone up for added minutes as Marske look set to be level at the interval with no doubt, Gainsborough boss Neal Bishop ready to rollock his lads despite their dominance in possession, a neat bit of football on the right though see’s winger Curtis Durose race through, he’s smashed home and put Trinity ahead, that’ll change the team talks at the break.

The Score

The home staff seem pleased at the break, all going their way they have seen their team score twice, after four matches without a goal, after four successive losses they sniff a win.

But the second half starts sloppy, Gainsborough aren’t at it, Marske have come out fighting, and the away side are back level, a long throw-in volleyed home by Adam Boyes inside the area, two sniffs, two goals, the former England C international is a known non-league net bulger, so why was he left unmarked?

Credit Neal Bishop who’s not happy, he immediately brings on Fraser Preston who they’ve recently snapped up from Alfreton Town, he’s a player I’ve previously stated my fondness of too, within a minute fellow sub George Hornshaw crosses low from the right to Preston who’s awaiting at the back post to finish from close range.

That advantage sways actions in back favour of Gainsborough as Marske a man short need to come back and level for a third time, that won’t happen because goalkeeper Roxburgh has been caught out, a short headed back pass has him scurrying out of goal, Preston has an empty net to half volley back into from outside the area, it’s a mix up that costs Marske any chance of a comeback.

4-2 up and in control it’s time for Gainsborough to have more fun, enter Cogill and his left boot, he’s now enjoying spraying the ball more than ever, Isaac Rice is starting to look like Declan Rice, Bailey Conway is floating about, feeding his strike predators, Liam Waldock gets another, before Curtis Durose caps off a fine night.

The Stars

Cogill has a wand there’s no doubt about it, but can he defend? Well the jury’s out as he’s not really been asked so much, Marske after all twice scored, the centre forward he was marking twice scored.

I’m most impressed with Bailey Conway who’s apparently nicknamed ‘Mascha’ after Javier Mascherano, I think he’s best in the creative third as can pick an eye for a pass, he’s gliding alongside skipper Isaac Rice who does a lot of Gainsborough’s un-noticed dog work.

Curtis Durose has done well down the right, direct with an eye for goal, Fraser Preston brilliant off the bench, but Clayton Donaldson wins sponsors man of the match, he had a fabulous first half but filtered out in the second, 38-years young he’s tall, physical, deceivingly quick, he should however of had a goal, I turn to one of the clubs directors as he questions the ‘man of the match’ announcement and state “he’s the only forward who hasn’t scored”.

For Marske, they were undone by their own defender who made a tough night an impossible night after getting wrong-sided to commit a foul when the scores were level, to be sent off.

Whilst Sikora may get the blame, Boyes will get credit for making a fight of it, Donald Chimalilo was a constant threat whilst Jason Kennedy in midfield, an FA Youth Cup winner with Middlesbrough in his younger days, now aged 36, he put himself about and shown the quality and leadership that this team needs, during the latter stages of this season, to survive.

The Verdict

Marske are no doubt in the thick of it, twentieth in the division they might have seven games in hand on Nantwich in eighteenth but five points below safety, they’ll know the pressure is on to get out of trouble, and three games a week won’t help them during the business end of the season, as they search now desperately amongst their own hands, in which it's in, for survival.

Gainsborough at the other end, look assured, and good quality, at home they’ve usually struggled this season, whilst away, they have the best form in the league. Outside the playoffs by just one point, it would be good to see them go up, as step six suits them, a big club in a small town, with a lovely proper football ground to strut their stuff on, the clubs Head Media guy Rob Hughes stating after the win “you can come again” to which I replied, “I’ll certainly be back”.

The Teams

Gainsborough Trinity: Matt Yates, Prosper Keto (George Hornshaw 46), Joseph West, Isaac Rice (Andrew Wright 70), Hayden Cann, Dylan Cogill, Curtis Durose, Bailey Conway, Clayton Donaldson, Liam Waldock, Jack Dyche (Fraser Preston 53).

Marske United: Michael Roxburgh, Jordan Emery, Jorge Sikora, George Horbury, Alex Storey, Jason Kennedy, Ethan Vaughan (Alfie Doherty 46), Josh MacDonald, Adam Boyes, Donald Chimalilo (Niah Payne 74), Dylan McAvoy.

7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 7th February 2023, The Northolme, Gainsborough (att 350).

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