Ashington FC manager Steve Harmison admitted his side were off the pace in the first half of a dour encounter against Dunston UTS at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
However Harmison thought his side were unfortunate to have a ‘goal’ disallowed during the second half which would have put them 2-1 ahead.
“It was a bizarre game in a way where both goalkeepers have made one very good save each and then didn’t have much to do,” he said, “The game was played in front and both goals had a bit of fortune about them.
“For the Dunston score, I thought it was a free-kick on our ‘keeper Conor Grant and I’m sure Dunston boss Billy Irwin will be aggrieved with the penalty award we got.
“But I’m disappointed that having got back on terms at 1-1, Ben Harmison’s ‘goal’ didn’t stand.
“The keeper dropped the ball and wasn’t in control of it but the referee gave a free kick.”
Harmison thought the rigours of the past week had caught up with his players: “We weren’t at the races first half - we were nowhere near,” he said,
“Dunston were faster and their decision making was quicker. We told the players as much at half time and you can talk tactics, shapes etc but unfortunately if the team you are playing against opponents who seem to want it more, get there faster and make decisions quicker, you are always going to be playing second best - and that was us in the first half.”
He continued: “After the break we were completely different – I thought we were much better.
“We isolated Ben [Harmison] a little bit trying to play with three up front but didn’t get close enough to him and the game just petered out into nothing really.
“However, over the past seven days, the lads have put a lot of effort in and because of that there were some tired bodies out on that pitch today.
“The energy levels against South Shields were unbelievable and the effort to come back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 on Wednesday at Billingham Synthonia in the League Cup was also commendable.
“I think that was why we were lethargic first half and didn’t have the ‘get up and at them’ attitude throughout the game and the fact we have no midweek fixture will do us the world of good because again we have picked up a few injuries.
“But we have got to start winning games at home and that was a disappointing aspect today.
“We didn’t play well enough to merit that and it was a game where we should have been on the front foot. The toll of the last seven days hit the players but it was a great response second half.” Harmison stressed that the first division of the league is strong: “Dunston lost 6-0 during the week and they have come here and got a point,” he said,
“In theory we could have won at South Shields last week, yet they have beaten Morpeth 4-0 today and the other results show it’s a league where anybody can beat anybody which is a good thing.”
The boss handed skipper Craig Scott a second consecutive start against Dunston – after listening to his brother James [Harmison]: “I thought Craig Scott performed well again but to be fair James [Harmison] was the one who made the decision easier for me,” he said,
“James knows Craig is one of our best defenders and implied to us he thought Craig had to play and I think he was probably right. “James has come out of the team under no fault of his own – he and Wayne Buchanan have been excellent.
“They were outstanding against South Shields and the three goals we conceded were not defensive goals.
“James’s desire for Ashington to get better in his eyes sees that Craig needs to get fit - and he’s not going to do that sitting on the bench.”
For Saturday’s trip to Newton Aycliffe, Shaun Henderson and Ryan Bell are definite non starters whilst fitness reports will be required from Craig Scott, Ben Harmison and Ben Sampson.
“We have got to keep an eye on Ben Harmison because we are running him into the ground,” added the boss.