Ashington end home campaign with win over Ancients

James Taylor puts Ashington 3-1 ahead against Norton & Stockton. Picture by Ian Appleby
James Taylor puts Ashington 3-1 ahead against Norton & Stockton. Picture by Ian Appleby

Ashington signed off their home programme in the Ebac Northern League’s first division with a 4-1 win over Norton & Stockton Ancients.

The victory – their 19th of the campaign – came on the back of a well earned 0-0 draw on the previous Thursday evening against FA Vase finalists Spennymoor.

But the Colliers were forced to work hard for the points against a Norton & Stockton side which had already been relegated to the second division.

Ancients gave a good account of themselves, especially in the opening half, but only had one decent effort to show for their efforts when Callum Martin’s low left foot shot was pushed out by home keeper Craig Towart, who was making his debut.

That came on the half hour, three minutes after the stopper had played his part as Gary Middleton’s side took the lead.

Marc Walton had earlier had a shot cleared off the line by Mark Lilley, but Ashington’s opener was a well worked team goal.

Towart threw the ball out wide to Andrew Johnson whose pass found Walton on the right, and when the centre forward advanced to the by-line and pulled it back, Gareth Bainbridge did well to apply the finishing touch from close range at the near post.

James Taylor, Johnson and Craig Scott – the latter returning to the starting line-up after being on the sidelines for a month with a hamstring injury – then schemed a move which ended with Walton directing a header wide.

But after Ashington had lost Andrew Dobby through injury, Ancients got back on terms two minutes into time added on at the end of the period when the Colliers pressed the self destruct button.

Shaun Clarke latched onto a short corner by Martin and when he crossed to the far post, the unmarked Anthony Hume made no mistake with a firm header across Towart.

Glen Taylor had replaced Dobby and three minutes after the resumption the striker put the Colliers ahead for a second time.

James Taylor provided the pinpoint cross from the right with Glen Taylor sending a bullet header into the roof of the net.

On the hour it could so easily have been 3-1 when Walton hit a shot on the turn from 20 yards which thudded against the base of the post, then the same player was denied by keeper Jack Norton and substitute Jonny Godsmark’s effort from the rebound was again cleared off the line by Lilley.

With quarter of an hour remaining, the home side gave themselves breathing space with an excellent finish by James Taylor.

Mark O’Dea split the Norton defence with a superb through ball finding Johnson on the left, and when he crossed, Taylor teed the ball up for himself then struck a sumptuous half volley which left Norton helpless.

Matty Grieve headed over a Johnson corner then in a rare raid, an effort from distance by Michael Jameson was tipped over by Towart.

Walton ought to have scored in the 90th minute when Glen Taylor glanced on a Johnson cross but the striker was off target with a right foot volley.

However, two minutes into added time, Walton won back possession to set up Johnson who, after his initial effort had been parried by Norton, followed up to stab in to record his 30th goal of the campaign.

There were no hair-raising moments during the game but afterwards, Ashington bar staff member Maggie Lang was having her head shaved to raise money for the Motor Neurone Fund.

Attendance: 148.

Ashington: Towart, J Taylor, C Scott, O’Dea, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson, Dugdale (Antony 62 mins), Walton, Bainbridge (Godsmark 70 mins), Dobby (G Taylor 41 mins). Subs not used: L Scott, Barnard.

On Thursday, an outstanding defensive display culminated in Middleton’s side securing a goalless draw at Spennymoor.

In the first period keeper Karl Dryden made several saves – including an exceptional one from Mark Davison – and after the break Matty Grieve cleared an effort off the line.

But ten minutes from time, the Colliers almost broke the deadlock when Gareth Bainbridge played a one-two with Andrew Johnson and fired goalwards only for keeper Robert Dean to pull off a terrific save, diving to his right.

Following the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, between Ashington and Whitley Bay at St James’ Park on Wednesday (May 1), the Wansbeck outfit travel to Cumbria on Friday night (May 3) where they will play their penultimate league game of the season, against Penrith.

This will be followed by another journey on Wednesday, May 8, for a clash against Norton & Stockton, to replay the match which earlier in the season was abandoned at half-time due to fog.