Monday 18 October 2021

Football by the Seaside as Marske United's Unforgettable FA Cup Journey Continues

Marske United's run to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup has been nothing short of spectacular. A thumping 7-0 win over league rivals Pickering Town was followed by an almost as impressive 6-0 win over lower tier Seaham Red Star before two astounding wins against higher league opposition.

First up were South Shields of the Northern Premier League Premier Division (level 3 in the non-league pyramid) who sit one tier above Marske from Division One East of the Northern Premier League. South Shields are backed by a wealthy businessman, rich by non-league standards at least, and have recently turned professional. Their meteoric rise was halted by COVID but the club are favourites for the title this season and were top of the league at the time of facing Marske. Despite being heavy favourites, however, the visitors were dispatched of 3-0 to set up a home tie with National League North side Chester in the third qualifying round.

Two divisions above Marske, Chester did well to come away with a 0-0 draw and were totally outclassed during a replay in which Marske hammered them 4-0 on a night when the visitors could have easily had 5 or 6 if not more. Absolutely incredible stuff.

Marske-by-the-Sea is a fairly uneventful place and "Where's that?" is a not uncommon response when this coastal village just a few miles south of Middlesbrough and 25 miles north of Whitby comes up in conversation. Thankfully for them, their football club is just about beginning to put them on the map because, and I don't want to seem disrespectful, probably nothing else will.

I have nothing against Markse it is in parts a quaint little village but in reality, probably not a lot happens there. Indeed, for a seaside town/village it is, quite honestly, a little bit boring. It may be beside the seaside but you can hardly call it a seaside resort. It has a beach but there is no pier and the seafront certainly isn't lined with hotels, amusements, bars and restaurants. I had a little walk down myself when I visited and before I'd even reached the seafront, the hustle and bustle of the village centre had completely disappeared and I found myself completely on my own in a windswept scene of nothingness. But maybe Marske beach is good for dog walking, who knows?

Yes, I know I'm not really selling the place to you but the football should win you over and for anyone visiting the Teesside area I would definitely find time for a visit to Marske United. Also, to be fair, although Marske may not have the charm of Whitby down the coast or razzmatazz of other places by the sea it is, nonetheless, definitely a world away from the smog and grime industrial Teesside stereotype which other parts of the area more than live up to. It does, as well, have a beautiful looking old church and, also, I managed to get some excellent Fish & Chips from a takeaway called Sea Mist in the Village centre. So there you go people of Marske, I have at least said a few very nice things about your humble abode because all in all, it ain't too bad really.

Having defeated Chester, Marske, who sit near the top of their division, would have to face Gateshead FC in the fourth and final qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup with the Tynesiders making the 50 mile drive south for another all North East affair. The all-ticket match would be a complete sell-out with a well above average 1,320 in attendance and a few pre-match arrivals who had not realised this finding they could not enter. Having myself paid in advance £10 for a ticket online, however, I was all good to go.

Marske United's home ground is called Mount Pleasent and is only a few minutes walk from the village railway station. From said station, you can hop on a train to Middlesbrough a few stops up the line or stay on until Darlington slightly further afield on the east coast mainline that runs from London to Edinburgh.

The ground itself is a fairly basic affair but does have one main seated stand and some covered terracing. Other facilities include hot food catering serving burgers and pies, teas and coffees, and a can bar at one end of the ground as well as the main bar outside. Getting your hand stamped on entry allows you back into the stadium if you decided to head back out again to the main bar which is essentially nothing more than an extra-large Portakabin. But in said bar, you can, at least, sit down and watch the half-time scores come in on the telly. Nonetheless, the ground has a unique charm that only a non-league ground of such standing can have and besides as for alcohol, there are also several pubs in the centre of Marske and another one next to the train station.

The match was a huge occasion for the hosts with a place in the first round proper of the cup at stake and there was a raucous atmosphere well before kick-off as I sat reading my copy of the excellent £2 Seasider matchday programme.

At kick-off, I was standing near most of the large contingent of unsegregated Gateshead fans who were stood behind the goal. From all sides, the crowd were just as vociferous as earlier with drums and horns evident from one small group of home supporters at the opposite end. The Tyne-Tees rivalry was also evident too, particularly from the home followers who chanted 'soft Geordie b***tard' every time a Gateshead player went down. 

Both goalkeepers were in action early on as there was chances at both ends but as the first-half wore on it was Gateshead who began to take control. The match was goalless at half-time, however, and although Marske were probably the better side in the second-half, as the game wore on it looked increasingly like the match would end in a goalless draw. Unsurprisingly, despite the Gateshead 'keeper being forced to make a brilliant save in stoppage time, 0-0 was ultimately how it ended. Back to Gateshead for a replay.

I immediately left at full-time and was able to make it onto the station platform several minutes before my train arrived. As far as matchday experiences go this had been a cracking afternoon, albeit no doubt enhanced by the nature of the occasion. This was all set in a village that ain't so bad after all and maybe one day I'll be back for another 90 minutes of on pitch action.

Finally, of course, as I said earlier, not many people have heard of Marske and indeed the Peterborough United fans who jumped on my train at Middlesbrough after a 2-0 defeat at the nearby Riverside Stadium had themselves no clue. But whilst the people of Marske-by-the-Sea will, I'm sure, sometimes claim to live 'near Middlesbrough' hopefully continued success for their football club will mean the village of Marske-by-the-Sea can get a mention in its own right! After all, as football trips go you could do a lot worse than a game in this village by the sea!

For the record 555 Marske fans travelled up to Gateshead for the replay but their epic cup run finally came to an end as I witnessed a 3-2 win for the hosts.


  1. Enjoyed the read Jimmy. It seems you had a good day out
    Hope you get to return sometime.

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