Just when Ashington thought they had begun to turn their season around after an indifferent start, an abject performance resulted in defeat to Dunston UTS at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
Having secured ten points after three successive wins and a draw from their last five matches, Gary Middleton’s side had played with renewed confidence.
But it all went out of the window against a typically workmanlike Dunston outfit who were certainly not flattered by their 4-2 victory.
Indeed had it not been for the alertness, agility and brilliance of keeper Conor Grant, the Colliers would have been on the receiving end of a far heavier defeat.
Grant took the man of the match award by a considerable mile as he racked up a series of distinguished saves to foil the visitors.
And he could so easily have been picking the ball out of the back of the net within 87 seconds of the kick-off.
That’s when Andrew Bulford headed on for Nicky Kane who waltzed into the area and after going past Grant, defender Lance McGlen was forced to made a double block – one on the line – to deny him.
The Gateshead-based side had certainly come out of the traps quickly and they could have broken the deadlock minutes later.
After a patient build-up, a cross by Lee McAndrew – who rejoined the club during the week – was headed wide at the far post by Dale Burrell.
Ashington had to work overtime in their defensive duties and when Stephen Harrison delivered a deep cross from the right, Richard Flynn got in an important header to divert the ball for a corner with McAndrew lurking to pounce.
It took Ashington 12 minutes to make their first impression. Kyle Downey found Marc Walton on the right and his cross was turned behind by ex-Whitley Bay defender David Coulson.
It led to a series of corners – one from which James Taylor placed a header over, then Walton went on a run from the halfway line where he slipped a defender and fired over a stinging right footer which flashed across goal and not far away from the upright.
Coulson went even closer when he met a McAndrew corner on the full to volley narrowly over before Dunston breached the home defence twice in ten minutes.
In the 26th minute Kane put his side in front. The Colliers appealed in vain for an offside decision which never came as McAndrew’s long pass down the left flank found Bulford and he slipped the ball into the middle for Kane, who side-footed into the far corner from six yards.
McAndrew was denied by Grant but the keeper had no chance as the former doubled his side’s advantage, heading home at the near post from a pin point cross from Burrell.
James Novak cleared off the line from a corner before the final action of the half saw McGlen dispossess McAndrew and raid down the right but his cross was too deep for Walton who, stretching, volleyed wide.
In the 52nd minute, a searching ball from Flynn found Walton who turned and fired just over, but three minutes later the home side somehow kept out a third with desperate defending following a woeful back-pass by Flynn.
Bulford latched onto the ball and his shot was kept out by Grant – and the follow up by Ben Christensen – with Grant blocking yet another effort.
The overworked keeper denied Bulford then McAndrew before Glen Taylor reduced the deficit with the first of four goals inside a ten-minute period.
Dunston keeper Liam Connell palmed away a Downey drive but from the corner on the right, Walton played the ball in to Taylor who fired home left footed from six yards.
Three minutes later, a great ball from the back by James Taylor released substitute Tony Stephenson who was thwarted by a splendid tackle from Harrison.
Sixty seconds later, Bulford restored his side’s two-goal cushion. A header from Coulson smacked against the bar and the ball was pushed away from Grant but only to the feet of Bulford who smashed it home from close range.
Kane got on the end of a through ball from Gary Ormston to head over the advancing Grant to make it 4-1, then in the next minute, Glen Taylor set up Walton who drove the ball wide of Connell.
A final push by Dunston saw Grant perform heroics to somehow keep out efforts from Michael Dixon and Harrison before the final whistle condemned the Colliers to their fourth home defeat of the season.
Ashington: Grant, McGlen, Christensen, Slaughter, Flynn, J Taylor, Downey, Ferrell, Walton, G Taylor, Novak (Stephenson 59). Subs not used: Davison, Egen, Elliott.
Ashington now face a double header at their Woodhorn Lane base.
On Saturday, October 11, the Colliers entertain Bishop Auckland then Marske United make the trip up to Wansbeck on Tuesday, October 14.