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Saturday 1st March 2014 ko 11.00

Northern League Division One

MARSKE UNITED 0 O’Sullivan sent off 37 (violent conduct)

GUISBOROUGH TOWN 4 (Johnson 30 90 Roberts 63 86)

Att 433

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge £3

One of the advantages of a one-day Northern League hop is also its great disadvantage! I left darkened Oxfordshire at 5.30am wondering what the weather would be like, and as the sun rose over scenic Coventry it became clear that organiser Harvey Harris had booked the weather; the cold I can live with, but getting wet on a multi-game day is just plain depressing.

Marske-by-the-Sea, is just south of the Petropolis’ of Redcar and west of Middlesbrough, in that inelegantly named county of Teesside. The village used to sport an RAF base that during the days of the Royal Flying Corps in World War I had Biggles author Captain WE Johns as a resident! World land speed record holder Andy Green hails from here, reaching a speed of 714.144 miles per hour in his car ThrustSSC on October 15th 1997.

It was obvious on arrival at the G.E.R. Stadium that the club were well prepared for the game. There were two reasons to be keyed up, the hop obviously, but if not more important was the massive local derby, and from the outset the massed ranks of Guisborough fans took their place on the far side, just behind the dugouts. It was to be one of those derbies where the needle was to be on the pitch, rather than away from it.

It was good to see Terry Hall of Terry’s Badges set up in one corner. A badge seller has been a groundhop staple for many years, and I even managed to pick up a Team Northumbria badge that had not been available on their hop game back in October.

The hoppers collected their programme packs from Harvey efficiently and I treated myself to breakfast (!) in the form of curry and chips from the burger van parked at the entrance. The food was excellent, but I do have reservations about clubs bringing in burger vans. We at GroundhopUK had exactly this on the Welsh hop at Greenfield FC. Clubs like them as it hands the catering to an expert, and its one less thing to worry about. However, the van’s owners normally take around 90% of the profits, so it becomes a case of a club paying someone to take their profits away! Obviously if a club cannot get sufficient volunteers to do their own catering then it should be considered, but if a tiny club like Berinsfield FC of the North Berkshire League can do it perhaps more others should.

That is a small quibble, and Marske’s staging of their game was excellent, and special mention must go to their programme. A beast of 90 pages, I took a good 2 hours to read it this morning, and it goes into that exclusive category of publication that hoppers mention in hushed tones along the likes of Spartan South Midland Leaguers Hoddesdon Town, and Buckland of the Western League. Sadly for the hosts the game proved to be a disaster for them.

Marske made a bright start but Guisborough (pronounced Giz-brough by the way) soon took control and took the lead when a through ball found Danny Johnson on the left channel. He slipped his marker, and rounded Rob Dean in the Marske goal and slipped the ball home from an acute angle for, unbelievably, his 45th goal of the season.

It got worse for Marske soon afterwards. A tussle between Johnson and Marske left back Liam O’Sullivan was ignored by referee Stuart Campbell and as the ball was pumped upfield by Rob Dean, O’Sullivan kicked Johnson on the back of his left leg. It was a stupid as it was cowardly, and it was right in front of the linesman too! He flagged, and O’Sullivan received his marching orders. As he stomped off his goalkeeper’s diatribe summed up the position.

“You’ve f****** killed this game for us…!”

Guisborough never looked back. Callum Martin’s inswingng corner got the slightest of touches from Michael Roberts for 2-0, before collecting his second of the game, smashing home from 18 yards out for his 38th goal of the season!

Johnson was fortunate not to have been seriously injured when a dreadful challenge from behind from Austin Johnston saw the Marske man lucky to receive only a yellow card, but Johnson raced through in stoppage time to make it 4-0 and put Marske in relegation trouble. They’re just four points above the relegation zone and with a six-pointer away at Sunderland Ryhope on Tuesday.