Marske United’s assistant-manager Nick Ward refused to use the lack of home advantage as an excuse for the Ebac Northern League First Division club`s defeat against league rivals Stockton Town in the first leg of the Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Final.
Saturday’s first leg was due to be played at Marske’s Mount Pleasant ground, but it was switched to Stockton Town’s Bishopton Road West in the middle of last week because of the waterlogged state of the pitch.
Marske have already suffered several postponements of league games this season because of their pitch, and the ground move meant that both legs of the semi-final will be played on Stockton’s 4G pitch.
Ward also admitted that the pressure of the occasion may have got to the players in their 2-0 defeat, which has left them with an uphill battle if they want to make it to the final at Wembley.
“In an ideal world we would have been at home,” said Ward. “But it happened and we didn’t have a problem with switching, so that is not an excuse.
“We have come here today on a pitch that suits us – it is their home pitch but it suits us. We train on a 4G pitch every week, so we can’t use that as a scapegoat or an excuse.”
Although the game was played at Stockton’s ground, it was packed with Marske supporters who were given the equivalent ticket allocation of a home side for the first leg.
“We know the pitch but Marske are a very good football team and you could see that,” said Stockton boss Micky Dunwell.
“They kept the ball very well and we knew that we would have to be patient with our attacks and not over commit people, and I think we did that very well.
“There was a point in the first half where Michael Arthur had to make a great save, but other than that, we defended great.”
A solid second half defensive display after two first half goals gave Stockton the advantage at the half way stage of the tie, and Ward was the first to give them praise, as well as excepting his own side’s downfalls.
“On the day they defended better than we did, that’s been the difference.
“We had more of the ball, but in the final third we didn’t capitalise on that.
“They put a lot of blocks in and credit to them, but we’ve let two bad goals in and that’s the bottom line. “
As well as having to face the prospect of another game away from home, Marske will also have to deal with a much bigger Stockton support base second time around, as they will be classed as the hosts.
“We are still positive we can turn this round,” said Ward.
“We have got a good squad in there and we have been playing well all season, so it is a blow that we didn’t play better – maybe it was the occasion.
“But next week we have to perform. We have to get a result.
“Yes we had all the possession, but possession doesn’t win football games, goals win football games, but we have got the chance to turn it round next week, and we are capable of turning it round”.