NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Luke Pepper stars as March Town triumph in a spicy Boxing Day derby

Jack Brand helped March Town beat his former club, Wisbech St Mary, on Boxing Day. Picture: IAN CART

Jack Brand helped March Town beat his former club, Wisbech St Mary, on Boxing Day. Picture: IAN CARTER - Credit: Archant

March Town claimed the local Thurlow Nunn League First Division bragging rights with a Boxing Day derby success against nine-man Wisbech St Mary.

The Hares came from behind to triumph 2-1 at the GER against a struggling Saints side who had midfielder James McManus and goalkeeper Adam Wright dismissed.

While manager Mel Mattless was delighted with the way his March men approached a full-blooded clash, he was quick to admit their margin of victory should have been greater.

“It was a proper local derby,” said Mattless. “There were a lot of yellow cards, two red cards and plenty of strong tackles going in.

“Both teams dug in, but there was never any malice. It was just a case of us both trying to win an important fixture.

“It wasn’t the best of games in all honesty and it certainly wasn’t one of our best performances, but it is all about getting the result in a derby.

“We stood up to the challenge, but we should really have won by more. We didn’t have the killer instinct to put Wisbech St Mary away when they were down to nine men.”

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Neither side managed a breakthrough in the first half, but March ended it with a numerical advantage after McManus was sent off for collecting two cautions.

But it was Saints who hit the front early in the second period when leading scorer Jack Friend struck.

The advantage proved to be short-lived as March levelled within a minute following the best move of the match which stemmed from kick-off following the visitors’ opener. Luke Pepper was the player to find the net with a smart finish after a slick sequence of passes.

And Pepper was the provider when March completed the turnaround by pulling the ball back for Ben Matthews to hit his third goal since arriving from Chatteris Town.

Wisbech St Mary were then reduced to nine men by the dismissal of Wright for scything down March frontman Jack Brand - a former Saints player.

Matthews, Brand and Casey Logan all missed excellent opportunities to extend the lead after outfield player Jack Mockford took over in goal for the visitors.

March were thumped 5-1 at table-toppers Woodbridge last Saturday when their misery was compounded by the late dismissal of striker Matthews.

Brand hit the Hares’ consolation after seeing an earlier goal controversially ruled out for offside.

Matthews begins a three-match suspension when March travel to Norwich CBS this Saturday, 3pm, for their final fixture of 2017. Defender Aaron Wykes and midfielder Michael Chow are both unavailable.

“It’s going to be tough as they are a good side by all accounts,” continued Mattless. “But hopefully we can follow up the derby win and finish the year with a decent result.”