Marine manager Neil Young was left to rue missed opportunities in their defeat to Bootle.
Tom Peterson headed the hosts in front after a quarter of an hour then deep into second-half stoppage time, Jack McGowan fired into the roof of the net as Ben Hodkinson notched his second assist of the afternoon.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the visitors as a win would’ve sealed their place in third and booked a home playoff clash with the side that finished fourth. But the 10-men of Bootle ran out 2-0 winners, despite Will Bell being given his marching orders in the first-half.
Marine enjoyed a number of chances but were denied by Theo Roberts – who was in fine form on Bank Holiday Monday under the Bootle sunshine – and brave defending from the hosts.
Speaking to Off The Park after the defeat, Young said: “(You’ve) Got to take your chances when they come along, they didn’t, I thought we lacked any zip, we looked tired, we give lads opportunities bring them back from injury, trying to get them minutes. Overall, from ourselves it was generally a poor performance.
“They deserve to win both games they played us in and rightly so,” he added as Brian Richardson completed a league double after their Boxing Day rout in the reverse meeting. “They’re a good side, good manager, progressing and I think again Brian will take them on again to improve. All I can worry about is my own team and we’ve got a big couple of games coming up.
“We had lots of chances but you’ve got to take them. Goals change games, we’ve seen in the games where people have labelled us poor, myself included, we’ve got to take our chances, goals change games.
“When we played them at our place we had chances early doors, we didn’t, they scored and run away with the game. Generally, when we’ve lost this season we’ve had chances we haven’t taken and been hit on the counter-attack.”
On Bell’s red card, the Mariners boss continued: “It’s harder for them, for me where I was it looked a bad tackle, I was close to it and it didn’t look good at the time. They’ve had 10 men, fair play to them they’ve dug in and got the result that they wanted.”
Coming into the derby clash, Marine were in high spirits after a hard-earned win over promotion-chasing Workington on Saturday. However, they couldn’t follow it up with a win. “I said to that (coming in off a win against Workington) before the game, as a manager, all you want is consistency so you can nail your colours to the mast in terms of who you want to play in the next game, in this position that position,” he said.
“But that’s us, we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Saturday, you see an unbelievable performance, organised, people wanting to run, tackle, head, kick, get in the box.
“Today, you’ve seen virtually the opposite and if you look at Bootle’s second goal, if you watch it back, if I’ve seen it right, they had one person up the pitch, I think it was Ben (Hodkinson) he’s got hold of it and done well, the number 10 (Jack McGowan) has ran the full length of the pitch to get in, that desire, that’s great desire to win the game for his team.
“We’ve had all them opportunities but you’ve got to score and at the end of the game if you don’t put that ball in the net – the goalkeepers made some good saves – it’s immaterial.”
They host Leek Town on the final day of the season with the playoff race finely in the balance between themselves, Neil Baker’s side and Runcorn Linnets. It’s a must-win for Young, he explained: “We have to win. We have to win now. If we would’ve won today, it would’ve been done and dusted we’d of been finishing third but it’s not.
“So we have to win the game, we need a performance out of them Saturday, Tuesday and hopefully the following Saturday you never know. But if we play like that Saturday or Tuesday, we won’t go much further but on the other side, you’ve seen how good we were so I’ve got to believe that I can get out of them again.
“Hopefully get some players back, people are talking about injured players coming back but injured players aren’t going to just become great players if they’ve been out for three, five, six weeks.
“You’ve seen today, lads who’ve been injured, Doyley (Alex Doyle) has played two games, Clarkey (Luke Clark) something similar in the middle of midfield trying to get the balance between giving lads games, win football matches and look at the bigger picture of a week on Tuesday, put that all together you’ve got try win football matches and today we didn’t.”