A last-minute strike from Jack McGowan secured the win for 10-man Bootle, after Tom Peterson’s opener against rivals Marine.
Top goalscorer Ben Hodkinson turned provider on both occasions as the Bucks scored in both halves to secure the league double over the Mariners. But their task of completing the feat was made trickier as Will Bell was sent off following a challenge on Owen Watkinson with the scoreline 1-0.
Prior to the deadlock being broken, it was Neil Young’s side who had the brighter of the opening exchanges and the hosts had Theo Roberts to thank for maintaining parity in the opening six minutes after a double save to deny Neil Kengni and then Watkinson.
Kengni forced the shot-stopper into action minutes later, before Alex Doyle saw his curling goalbound effort denied by the woodwork.
However, Brian Richardson’s Bucks landed the first blow. And it was Peterson with a satisfying diving header after Hodkinson brilliantly worked an angle on the flank to deliver a teasing left-footed cross.
Just nine minutes after falling behind, Marine were handed the numerical advantage after Bell was sent for an early bath by the referee.
Despite being a man light, it didn’t halt the hosts and Declan McLoughlin forced Bayleigh Passant into action with a diving save.
Before the break, Marine had a chance to level proceedings as Kielen Adams looked for the bottom corner after good forward play only for Roberts to frustrate the former Macclesfield striker and the visitors once more.
Immediately after the restart, Peterson came mightily close to adding to his tally for the afternoon but saw his half-volley well-saved by Passant’s outstretched leg.
Looking to take advantage of the first-half red card, Marine pushed for an equaliser. They had a flurry of chances – including an indirect for a passback – forcing Bootle to weather the storm but they failed to find the back of the net.
A mixture of the Roberts’ bravery and heroic defending from the hosts frustrated the visitors. In the dying embers, it was game, set and match to the host as McGowan thundered home following an unselfish pass from Hodkinson. The winning goal was spearheaded by the Bootle 11 after Connor Millington sparked the counter-attack with a headed clearance off the line from an in-swinging corner.
The referee brought a close to the Bank Holiday clash as the playoff promotion contenders were left frustrated. But for Richardson’s side, they defended astutely and reaped the rewards for a sparkling collective display with Peterson and McGowan’s securing the win.
For the Bucks, they will be looking to spoil Warrington Rylands’ title party next week with the league leaders knowing a win will see them book their place in the Northern Premier League next season.
Meanwhile for Marine, it’s all to play for as their destiny in the playoffs hangs in the balance. They face fellow playoff contenders Leek Town on the final day with the possibility of setting up another meeting in the last four, days later.
Bootle 2-0 Marine AFC
Scorers: 26′ Tom Peterson, 90’+ Jack McGowan.
Bookings: Will Bell (red).
HT/FT Score: 1-0/2-0.
Off The Park Player of the Match: Ben Hodkinson
Standout Players: Theo Roberts (Bootle, goalkeeper), James McCarten (Bootle, defender).