Sunday, 1 March 2009

Game 9: Glossop North End 5, Marske United 2

Sixth Round Proper ~ Saturday 28th February 2009
Venue: Surrey Street, Glossop, Derbyshire
Attendance: 1,120

Distance travelled: 404 miles

There are some games that will stay with you for a very long time; as age takes its toll and memories fade, hours and hours of football will be archived to the dark recesses never to see the light of day again. But occasionally, one game comes along that is special, for a whole variety of reasons; these are the ones that you'll remember clearly, as if it were only yesterday. One such match took place yesterday, on the extremities of the Peak District. Played against a backdrop of rolling dales, crisscrossed by dry-stone walls, beneath the laden reservoirs of Valehouse, Rhoadeswood, Torside and Woodhead, blanketed by a heavy grey sky. In a town called Glossop, on a cold February afternoon, we were treated to a special game that shaped a truly memorable day.

It was a long day for me, but worth every minute. 200 miles via the M25, M1 and the Woodhead Pass down into Glossop, I was joined by Vase stalwart PB and my publisher and photographer, David Bauckham. David had travelled to my house from Eastbourne, so his day was even longer than mine. We were made to feel very welcome at Surrey Street by Haggis (press officer & match reporter), Neil (programme editor) and Ben (High Peak Radio) and many others that we chatted to throughout the day, including the marvellous Marske United fans. My Dad also made the short journey over from Cheshire; for someone that was born and bred in Glossop, this was even more of a homecoming for him than it was for me.

The basic facts about this FA Vase Quarter-Final tie will be written into the record books. Glossop North End won 5-2, with goals from Dave Hodges (2 minutes), Rick Bailey (12 and 29), Jamie Kay (59) and Sam Hind (90). Marske United's Ben Thompson and Craig Skelton bagged one each (21 and 61).

But there is much more to tell about this game than the mere sequence of goals. Let's start with the ground and the crowd. Over 1000 were packed into Surrey Street. This was my first visit, and I'm sure that Glossop won't mind me saying it has a rather ramshackle feel to it. Peeling paintwork, rusting corrugated iron, ageing concrete; Surrey Street has certainly seen better days. But let that not be a criticism; the old venue contributed immensely to the cup atmosphere and it was evident that a vast amount of hard work had gone on at the club to prepare for this big day with extra facilities provided. With all parts of the ground occupied it was by a country mile the biggest crowd I have seen on this FA Vase run. Both sets of fans were in good voice; Marske United fans were excellent value for money, marshalled by their 'bulldog' mascot. They sang constantly throughout the game and never lost heart, even towards the end of the game when the cup exit door was slightly ajar.

The game itself was enthralling and of a good standard. This was an end-to-end spectacle, and we were treated to seven goals. It could have been more. Even with Glossop leading 4-2 into the dying minutes of the game, Marske battled and never refused to lie down and the tension in the ground towards the end was almost unbearable. Glossop took their chances, of which they had many. They had pace in attack and strength in midfield and it was the speed down the flanks that exposed the visitor's fullbacks which was ultimately Marske's undoing. In this credit-crunched recession, you'll have to travel far and wide to find such great entertainment for a fiver.

With hindsight it's easy to reflect that Glossop killed the game off after only 12 minutes. In reality, it never really felt that way and there were times in the game when, if someone had suggested this was going to end 6-6, I would have struggled to disagree. Glossop exploded out of the blocks winning a corner straight form the kick-off and Bailey forced a good save from the Marske keeper Brendan Ledgeway. With the turnstiles still clicking, Dave Hodges opened the scoring when he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the area. Ten minutes later the scoreline was doubled. An accurate cross from Darren Hamilton was confidently converted by Bailey.

Marske enjoyed enough possession of their own. On 18 minutes, Thompson forced a good save from Ashlea Gotham and Marske won a corner after a momentary mix-up between Gotham and a defender. Thompson was proving to be a handful for the Glossop defence and he was rewarded on 21 minutes when he headed in a Derek Bradley cross. Marske were back in the game.

Glossop didn't react particularly well to conceding, and for a spell they rushed their long-ball game and they squandered possession far too easily. Just before the half-hour mark, Dave Young gave the ball away and Bradley chipped just over the bar from distance. A let-off for the home side. Glossop went straight up the other end; a long ball was taken well in his stride by Bailey who evaded two defenders to calmly slot home. 3-1 to Glossop and Bailey was really starting to impress.

The first half ended in a flurry of activity, so much so I can barely read my hurriedly scribbled notes. Both teams were committed to attack; Marske pressed and a good interchange of play between Thompson and Ross Diamond resulted in a fine effort on goal from Diamond. Gotham again saved well. In the dying minutes a scramble in the Glossop goalmouth had the Marske fans clutching their heads in despair; the ball then broke out to Hodges who sprinted away and put in a marvellous cross which the Marske goalkeeper fumbled to safety. Then straight back down to Glossop's end, another great cross, this time met by Marske's Glenn Wesson who headed down into the turf rather than anywhere on target. Breathtaking stuff. The referee blew for half-time, and it was time for us all to take a breather.

The second half was equally entertaining. Hodges was again playing very well on the left, and really started to panic the Marske right-back, Andy Raw. The No. 2 had a poor game, giving the ball away frequently; Hodges must take some credit for the pressure he applied. Marske changed to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to win more possession in the final third. This nearly paid dividends 50 minutes in when Andrew Swallwell had a shot blocked. But Glossop were once again swift on the break, and the heavy pitch was taking its toll on the Marske defence. On 51 minutes a mazy run from Hodges, leaving three Marske players in his wake, ended in a disappointingly weak shot. A minute later, a rising Hodges shot from a tight angle forced a great save from Ledgeway.

The Glossop midfield, in particular the excellent Jay Gorton, was now starting to boss proceedings. Bailey, Hodges and Hamilton were allowed much of the ball, and Marske were on the back foot. Just before the hour mark, Bailey set off on a weaving run, his pass inside found Hodges whose shot struck the foot of the Marske post. Moments later, Glossop worked the ball out wide to Bailey and Jamie Kay turned the cross in to make it 4-1. Bailey had now scored two and made another; he was already my man of the match.

All over for Marske? Not at all. Within two minutes, they pulled a goal back when substitute Skelton scored with a low shot. Marske still believed they could get something from the game; a superb double block by Gorton in the Glossop box prevented Marske adding to their tally. But, once again, back came Glossop and that man Hodges. By now, Raw was having a 'mare' of a game and I felt sorry for him; Hodges' driving runs were relentless. The end-to-end play continued; Marske shot over after a good move around the 70 minute mark. Glossop had a chance to settle the tie minutes later when a cross was arrowed in to a totally unmarked Dave Morris; Morris must have been shattered as he was barely able to jump off the ground and the ball sailed inches over his head and away from danger.

Both teams were now visibly tiring, but their commitment and desire drove them on still. Thompson flicked a header wide for the visitors with 10 minutes remaining and Gotham was forced to save at the foot of his post a couple of minutes later. Into the last 5 minutes, a sweet drive from Mark Swales clipped the Glossop bar. Glossop were hanging on; you could cut the tension with a knife.

With the Marske fans singing "you only need two more", with the clock ticking down, with Glossop nails bitten to the quick, there was time for one final twist. In the dying seconds, Marske were caught exposed at the back as Bailey found space to advance into the area. His shot rebounded off the post to a grateful Sam Hind who slotted home to send the Glossop fans berserk. 5-2 the final score. By 'eck - dramatic stuff.

And then there were the celebrations at the end. Fantastic scenes at the final whistle, the home fans spilling onto the muddy pitch to engulf their players. Glossop were through to the Semi-Finals of the FA Vase and the hosts were entitled to celebrate wildly. The reaction of the Marske fans was also top class. They stood to a man to applaud their own team's efforts, and were magnanimous in defeat. Marske United have enjoyed a wonderful cup run, and the massed travelling support were going to enjoy the day, whatever the outcome. Reports are filtering through this morning of how Marske fans congratulated Glossop fans, as they made their way out of Surrey Street, with handshakes and generous back slapping. A credit to their club; this surely is what football is all about.

If anyone had any doubts about the FA Vase, in terms of its importance, of what it means to clubs and fans, they should have been in Glossop yesterday. This was an occasion in every sense of the word, a day that will live in the memories of many. Unfortunately for Marske, it ended in a trough below the Peak; but for Glossop, they are still living the dream and there are pages of yet another chapter waiting to be turned. Wembley is almost 200 miles from Glossop, but it is so close now they can almost smell it.

Hold on to these very special memories Glossop, but at the same time leave a little room for a few more.

For more photos from the game, please click [here].


el Queso Grande said...

Excellent report Andy. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Great report. I was there as a Middlesbrough fan, now living in Warrington - bit fed up of the Premiership, so i thought i would go along and cheer on Marske. I was staggered how many fans they seemed to have there, at a guess, 200-250?

A great day out, and i can confirm the general "bonhomie" was two-sided.

I wish GNE well.

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