Sol’s play-off joy

Islander Sol Solomon (left) an his Marine FC side, will no play at Step 2 in the English football league system, after gaining promotion to the National League North Picture: MARINE FC (38007673)

DURING a week where many Island football fans are licking their wounds after Jersey Bulls’ play-off heartbreak semi-final exit last weekend, one Jersey export experienced the elation promotion can bring, helping lift Merseyside outfit Marine AFC into National League North.

The next campaign will mark the highest level the club have ever played at and Jerseyman Sol Solomon played a vital role in his side’s success.

A 2-1 win at Macclesfield FC, the successors of the historic Macclesfield Town, who suffered financial troubles and liquidation in 2020, provided arguably the biggest win in the Mariners’ long history, with Solomon front and centre for the celebrations.

Over 1,200 devout away fans descended on Macclesfield to cheer on their local side, who did a sterling job at keeping the home faithful quiet.

The Jerseyman was at the heart of the opening goal, after he was brought down in the area by Paul Dawson.

Marine’s Sinclair Smith slotted home to grab a lead they would not relinquish.

Jack Bainbridge’s powerful strike added a second after 68 minutes to double the tally, before Kane Drummond gave the hosts a glimmer of hope.

However, Solomon and co held tough, sparking scenes of jubilation at the final whistle.

“I don’t think I fully appreciated how passionate the fans are up here,” said the 23-year-old. “You always think of the main Merseyside teams like Liverpool and Everton getting lots of people behind them, but the local support for Marine has been incredible.

“To have 1,200 fans travelling to Macclesfield for the final is unbelievable.

“It’s really special. Marine is such a nice place to play and the supporters do really get behind us, both at home and away.

“This season, I feel I have settled in well and enjoyed a strong season. It’s a great feeling to be a part of a team that has fought for promotion.”

Success this campaign was not always a realistic aim for the Mariners.

Just Solomon and club captain Josh Wardle, along with a couple of players sidelined through injury, remain from the squad who finished last season.

With a brand new team comes challenges, which Marine became all too familiar with during the first few games. Just one win from their four opening games in the NPL Premier Division made for ominous reading. The fledgling team needed time and, with that time, came the results.

Six wins from their final seven fixtures lifted Marine up to third in the table, just one point behind Macclesfield.

Solomon added: “It did take a while for us to gel.

“Obviously it takes some time to figure out how everyone plays, so the first three months of the season were slightly sticky. But in the last five to six months, we have really clicked and ultimately that led us to promotion.

“I think I have improved this year, too. Coming from Jersey, it was pretty difficult to get used to how rough and physical everyone is.

“It forced me to become stronger and stand my ground better. If I didn’t adapt, I would have just been eaten alive.

“Making the move from a small place is quite daunting. But I feel lucky that I have my uncle up here, who comes to all the home games.

“My dad and mum have come up as much as possible too, so that support really means the world to me. Without their sacrifices when I was growing up, there is no way I’d be where I am now.”

Solomon, who departed Jersey Bulls for north-east England in September 2022, amassed a staggering 60 goals in just 71 appearances, for the Islanders.

Despite moving on, the potent forward confessed that he still supports them from afar.

“I was watching the play-off semi-final on Saturday against Croydon,” he continued. “Obviously I’m gutted for them.

“My uncle Luke [Campbell] still plays there and so do many of my friends.

“The season they had was brilliant and it would have been great to see them rewarded for that and promoted.

“I owe the Bulls a lot. They provided a platform for me to further my football and gain experience outside of Jersey.

“I might not still be at the club, but I will continue to keep a close eye on how they get on next season.”

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