PICKERING Town manager Paul Marshall has revealed that he rejected the opportunity to return to former club Harrogate Railway Athletic this season, writes Ian Appleyard.

Marshall was offered the manager's job at Station View following the resignation of manager Lee Ashworth in September.

He admits that he was tempted by the offer and will always have a soft spot for the club he led to the second round of the FA Cup 15 years ago.

But Marshall's decision to stay loyal to the Pikes has been fully vindicated over the last seven months.

He has become the first manager in the club's history to win over 85 points in a season and the Pikes are set to finish second in the Northern Counties East League premier division - after pushing Cleethorpes Town all the way for the title.

Railway, meanwhile, are still not safe from a second consecutive relegation having lost 10 of their last 11 games ahead of Friday's league game between the two clubs (2.30pm) at Station View.

They parted company with Ashworth's replacement, Paul Beesley, in February and youth coach Ray Green is currently in temporary charge until the end of the season.

"They made me a good offer but I felt we had more of a settled team at Pickering and leaving would have caused a lot of upheaval," said Marshall. "Railway will always be a club close to my heart - because of what we achieved there in the past - and I still have a lot of friends there including the chairman Rob Northfield. It hurts me to see where they are now."

Cleethorpes, who banged in 10 goals against Railway last weekend, moved five points clear at the top of the table last night after a 3-0 victory over Clipstone.

With five games still to play, compared to Pickering's three, it is unlikely that they will throw away promotion now.

Marshall has admitted defeat in the title race but knows that his side still need two more victories to secure second spot ahead of Bridlington Town.

After visiting Harrogate Railway, they still have games to play against Athersley Recreation (H) and AFC Mansfield (A).

The Pikes completed league 'doubles' last week against both Rainworth MW and Liversedge.

Goals from Ryan Blott, Lewis Taylor, Joe Dunnett, and Sam Denton secured a 4-0 win over Rainworth.

On Saturday, visitors Liversedge turned up with only 11 players due to hold-ups on the A64 but led 1-0 at the interval thanks to a 25th minute goal from Alfie Raw.

The Pikes staged a second half revival and, in the opening stages, Eddie Birch and Niall Tilsley both went close.

The Pikes got back on level terms in the 55th minute when Nick Thompson scored following an excellent pass from Ged Dalton.

The game came alive in the 58th minute when Pikes goalkeeper Toby Wells saved a penalty from Tom Brook.

Seven minutes later, the Pikes took the lead when a Lewis Taylor corner found defender Sam Denton who headed the ball home.

The Pikes' third and final goal arrived in the 78th minute when another Taylor corner was fired home by substitute George Bissett.

Winger Joe Dale is ruled out of Pickering's remaining three games due to his commitments with Acomb in the York and District Senior Cricket League.

Defender Denton, meanwhile, lines-up against former club Railway on Friday for the first time since his move to Pickering in mid-season.

Pikes V Liversedge: Wells, Parker, Dunnett (Bissett 67), Chipps, Denton, Tilsley, Thompson, Birch, Blott (Kamara 79), Taylor, Dalton (Dale 71). Unused substitute: Ingram. Attendance: 161.

Pikes V Rainworth MW: Wells, Parker, Dunnett, Chipps, Denton, Tilsley, Thompson, Birch, Blott,Taylor, Dalton (Dale). Unused substitutes: Bissett, Kamara, Marshall, Ingram. Attendance: 148.

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