ASHINGTON marched into the last 64 of this season’s FA Carlsberg Vase after victory over Sunderland RCA at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
The win completed a notable hat-trick for Gary Middleton’s outfit who had already knocked their Ryhope based visitors out of the FA Cup this term as well as completing a handsome 6-0 result over them the previous week.
However, as expected, Saturday’s contest was a much closer affair with RCA playing some neat approach football without being able to find a cutting edge whilst the Colliers were well served by defensive duo Liam Atkin and Matty Grieve who were outstanding. Striker Andrew Johnson came through a late fitness test to take his place in the starting line up – and was instrumental in the win, scoring the first then claiming an assist and being a constant thorn all afternoon.
The Wansbeck side began well and inside two minutes, James Taylor found Marc Walton who drove the ball across the face of the goal with Johnson just failing to make a connection. Josh Gray on his return to the side, played a through pass for the advancing Darren Lough who attempted to round keeper Neal Atkinson but was thwarted as the stopper smothered the ball well.
Ashington got their noses in front in the 11th minute. Johnson was fouled on the left just outside the area and his right footed free-kick from 16 yards took a deflection to creep inside the near post for his 12th goal of the campaign. Mark O’Dea scooped a chance over before he split the RCA defence with a slide rule pass which saw Johnson’s whipped ball go across the face of the goal with no-one up in support.
Johnson himself had the next opening in the 25th minute. O’Dea was once again the supplier which sent Johnson through in the inside right position but his shot from 22 yards was superbly blocked by the advancing Atkinson.
The visitors then enjoyed some good possession and approach work and spurned two heading opportunities from corners with Luke Gilbert then Aristote Guerin-Lokonga missing the target.
The 36th minute therefore proved to be a crucial moment in the game as Ashington doubled their advantage with a well worked goal from Matty Grieve – his first of the season.
Lough’s low and dangerous looking cross was cleared for a corner and from Johnson’s flag kick, O’Dea glanced the ball on for Grieve who stroked home on the half volley.
After the break, Johnson directed an effort straight into Atkinson’s midriff then Paul Antony sliced wide and substitute Gareth Bainbridge lashed over. Substitute Wayne Henderson was given a free header from a corner by Josh Home-Jackson which he directed wide before Ashington put together the move of the match in the 74th minute.
Antony, Johnson and Walton were involved in the build up with the latter skipping past two defenders and moving across the area until he let fly with a rasping right foot drive which was excellently tipped away by Atkinson.
The keeper denied Johnson – then in the 80th minute, Henderson was upended inside the area by James Taylor and substitute David Southern – who had only been on the field two minutes – stepped forward to send Dryden the wrong way from the resultant spot kick.
The goal – the first which Ashington had conceded for 454 minutes – set up a grandstand finish but it was the Colliers who had two great opportunities to seal the result in the closing stages.
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Lough – pushed forward into a midfield role with Craig Scott coming on for the injured O’Dea – was through but he fired wide of Atkinson’s left hand post.
Then in the first minute of stoppage time, Scott charged out of defence to find Walton who set up Johnson who drove wide of the target after a darting run.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to Norton & Stockton Ancients (3pm) before the Colliers host Celtic Nation on Tuesday, November 27 at Woodhorn Lane where kick-off is 7.30pm.
Ashington: Dryden, Williams, Lough, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson, J Taylor, Walton, Gray (Bainbridge 26 mins), O’Dea (Scott 61 mins). Subs not used: Heaman, Storey, Egen.