By Paddy Allen
“Hopefully a great Marine performance will see us through. We have a stronger team than we’ve had for some years, so we’ll definitely give them a game.”
These are the words of Marine chairman, Paul Leary, as they prepare to welcome Nantwich Town in the FA Cup on Tuesday.
The two sides had been in the same league, the Northern Premier League, prior to last season.
Marine were relegated for the first time in their 125 year history in the 18/19 season as Nantwich finished fourth.
They were unsuccessful in the playoffs, though.
The Mariners overcame Runcorn Linnets on penalties in the previous round. They also beat NPL side Frickley Athletic in the first round.
They nearly came unstuck in the preliminary round, though. Barnoldswick town, who are two divisions below Marine, came to Crosby and nearly caused an upset.
Two late goals, including a dubious last-minute winner from Josh Hmami, saw the Mariners through.
Having faced sides above and below them in the league pyramid, Leary was keen to emphasise the importance of these results.
“It can be negative if you get knocked out by a lower team but if you beat a team either in your own league or even higher it is really positive.
“You can then build on that with a good draw and hopefully more cup wins to follow.”
Leary also made a point regarding positive results in the cup competitions, saying: “It brings together a great team spirit and many times can provide spin-offs in league form.”
The positive outcome in the cup has clearly translated into Marine’s league performance.
Kevin Lynch’s side have won their last two games which sees them sit 9th in the Northern North West league. They had lost their opening two games.
Marine have already progressed further in the FA Cup than last season. They exited at the 2nd round of qualifying to Dunston UTS. However, they’ve still got a way to go if they want to match their best ever FA Cup campaign.
This came in the 92/93 season. Crewe Alexandra ended the Mariners journey in the 3rd round proper. Leary reminisced on that campaign fondly.
“What a cup run that was-national exposure as we were the last Non-League team in the FA Cup that year.
“The 4th round draw was beamed live into Marine’s Club by Sky TV”
Fans are able to attend non-league games, despite the developing situation around COVID-19. This may change with local restrictions, but Leary was quick to point out the importance of fans at this level.
“Non-league is all about fans and it is vital that we have paying spectators as that is the majority of our income on matchday.
“The closeness of the fans to players makes for a special atmosphere at the Marine Travel Arena. Cup days especially when so much is at stake.”
It’s well known that the FA Cup brings massive financial benefits to clubs that wouldn’t usually receive big cash injections.
Although the amount of money involved is lower than in previous years, the chairman was very much keen to focus on the positives, saying: “Because of the pandemic, the prize money has been halved from last season.
“It is still a great boost to Clubs to receive a winners prize and even losers get 25% in the qualifying rounds now.”
As the years have gone on, ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ has diminished in a lot of people’s eyes. The competition has become less important to fans of bigger clubs and less emphasis has been put on it by top managers.
However, for clubs at this level, the magic is very much alive. Leary certainly thinks so anyway, saying: “Being in a lower league the greater the cup run the more magical it is.
“We also start in the FA Cup much earlier than National League clubs so our magic can last much longer.”
The game kicks off at 7:45 Tuesday evening and you can follow the game on Twitter @MarineAFC.