STOCKTON TOWN will play in the FA Vase final at Wembley after winning a dramatic tie against Marske United.

Marske were 2-1 winners of a thrilling game featuring no shortage of goalmouth incident, but Stockton won last week’s first leg 2-0, so won the tie 3-2 on aggregate to earn a meeting with Thatcham Town under the arch on May 20.

Reaching Wembley marks the pinnacle of a club that has risen rapidly since making their first steps in senior football in 2009-10 when they entered the Teesside League.

It is only three years ago they were in the Wearside League, but they are now in the top half of Division One of the Northern League and looking forward to the Vase final.

Today’s game could have gone either way, however, particularly in the closing stages when there were chances at both ends, strong penalty appeals and each team had equalising goals ruled in a thrilling encounter.

Stockton took a two-goal lead into the second leg, and should have added to it inside the first 60 seconds.

Striker Fred Woodhouse was one-on-one after a Markse defensive mistake, but hit his shot at the keeper Robert Dean with only 22 seconds on the clock.

A goal then would have made for a dramatic start, but there was no let up in the goalmouth action during frantic opening stages.

The action switched to the other end where Stockton goalkeeper Michael Arthur made his first save, blocking Glen Butterworth’s drive from inside the penalty area with his feet after the Marske man drove into the 18-yard area, the home defence opening up invitingly.

Marske maintained their momentum and took the lead 1-0 on eight minutes.

It came after a free-kick inside their own half, conceded by Woodhouse, the ball dropped inside Stockton’s penalty area and left-back Liam O’Sullivan was first to react and he slotted home.

The goal made it 2-1 on aggregate to Stockton, but it did not change the dynamic of the encounter, the two teams both continuing to give full commitment in pursuit of the next goal.

Dale Mulligan’s desire certainly could not be questioned, his crunching tackle after a heavy touch delighting the packed crowd at Bishopton Road West.

There was incident at both ends, though clear scoring chances were few.

Stockton right-winger Kevin Hayes got into penalty area, but his low shot saved by Dean, then Marske’s Rowbotham got a toe in to stop Jamie Owens as he lined up a shot.

Right-back Rowbotham lurched forward to fire a shot into Arthur’s midriff, typical of Marske’s first-half chances which, like the first leg, did not seriously test the goalkeeper.

With only a goal between the teams there was little in the contest, until five minutes before the break when Nathan Mulligan held his nerve to put Stockton 3-1 ahead in the tie with a penalty.

It was a spot-kick awarded by the linesman, referee Thomas Bramley hesitant to point to the spot despite Adam Wheatley tripping Hayes.

Mulligan blasted home, the home crowd greeting the goal with a huge roar, knowing their team was now very close to reaching Wembley.

However, Marske were not done yet, and after a scrappy start to the second half they retook the lead with James Fairley scoring a stunning individual goal on 56 minutes.

The move began with midfield metronome Craig Gott inside his own half, he played the ball forward to Chay Liddle who in turn passed it out wide to Fairley.

The winger had plenty to do, a yellow wall of defenders blocking his path to goal, but a path opened up ahead of him as he dribbled at the back-peddling defenders before keeping his composure to score, making it 2-1 to Marske on the day and 3-2 to Stockton on aggregate.

Marske were marginally showing more signs of scoring the next goal, and Fairley made another mazy run soon after scoring, again going deep into enemy territory.

His progress ended in the penalty area, no spot-kick awarded, the winger perhaps fortunate to avoid a booking for simulation.

As Marske searched for another goal they began to throw men forward, and Stockton No. 1 Michael Arthur pulled off a marvellous save to keep his side ahead in the tie.

It was one-handed, Arthur leaping to his right to claw the ball out of the air to stop a header by Curtis Round.

It was a moment symptomatic of the day, as within seconds Jamie Owens chipped the keeper at the other end of the pitch but the ball dropped wide.

Burly Owens led the line on his own for Stockton in the second half, holding the ball up, but he was replaced for the closing stages as Stockton looked to close the game out.

There was a remarkable moment with 15 minutes to go when Stockton ‘scored’ accidentally. Nathan Mulligan volleyed the ball to the Marske goalkeeper from halfway after play had been stopped to allow a player to be treated, but it looped over keeper Deane.

However, the referee utilised a new law implemented this season to quickly rule out the goal, play restarting with a goal kick.

Mulligan was at the centre of the action in the final ten minutes, throwing himself at the ball and blocking shots as Stockton defended as best they could under mounting pressure.

Marske sent defender Leon Carling up front, needing one goal to take the tie into extra-time, and they thought they’d got it when Rowbotham smashed home a half-volley. Marske’s celebrations were premature, however, as the referee ruled it out for a foul on the edge of the Stockton penalty area.

It was just one of a series of dramatic moments at the conclusion of the contest. Stockton appeared to be denied a stonewall penalty when Hayes was tripped, though he should have scored, then Stockton’s Sonni Coleman missed an open goal for an acute angle when Marske were pushing men forward.

Stockton held on during the nail-biting injury time, however, doing enough to secure their place at Wembley.

Goals: O’Sullivan (8, 0-1); N Mulligan pen (41, 1-1); Fairley (56, 1-2)

Bookings: Woodhouse (7, foul), Wheatley (34, foul); N Mulligan (66, foul); Earl (80, foul)

Referee: Thomas Bramall

Stockton Town (4-4-2): Arthur; Carter, Nicholson, D Mulligan, Ward (Stockton 60); Hayes, Craggs, N Mulligan, Risbrough; Owens (Coleman 84), Woodhouse (Garbutt 73). Subs (not used): Cossavella, Dunwell

Marske United (4-2-3-1): Dean; Rowbotham, Carling, Wheatley, O’Sullivan; Liddle (Roberts 75), Gott; Round (Bulmer 79), Butterworth, Fairley; Earl. Subs (not used): Wood, Brockbank, Kelly