Ashington’s top six bid hits the buffers

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It may be a touch ironic that the main West Coast railway line runs adjacent to the Gillford Park Stadium in Carlisle as Ashington’s hopes of a top six finish have certainly hit the buffers this past week.

The Colliers have suffered consecutive defeats at a windswept Newton Aycliffe followed by Saturday’s reverse against Celtic Nation.

And in both matches they have been off key.

They settled well in the surroundings at Cumbria in what started off as a fast open game, but they only carved out one realistic chance in the first period.

And this against Craig Nelson, an outfield player who was forced to don the keeper’s jersey with their first choice suspended and the understudy unable to get time off work.

The first semblance of an opportunity arrived on the quarter hour mark when Marc Butler delivered a free kick from the right which led to the Ashington defence being forced to make two blocks inside the area.

It was the 29th minute before the Colliers pieced anything together after Andrew Dugdale had won the ball in the midfield and passed to Paul Antony.

Antony found Glen Taylor on the left and when he crossed, Andrew Johnson’s effort went wide.

Dean Douglas lashed over from 16 yards then play switched with Jonny Godsmark venturing down the right, but when he pulled the ball back, it was blocked.

However in the 39th minute, Mark O’Dea, Dugdale and Godsmark schemed a move which ended with the latter setting up an opening for skipper Liam Atkin, but he fired a great chance over the bar.

Five minutes later, Karl Dryden denied James Parker from point blank range.

But seconds before the interval Celtic went in front.

Matty Grieve’s clearance went to Glen Taylor who lost possession with the ball falling straight into the path of Stephen Archibald.

He slipped it through for Dean Douglas who side-footed wide of Dryden from six yards.

Thirty-five seconds into the second half, Archibald had a header held by Dryden – but once again supporters were starved of opportunities and the fans had to wait until the 70th minute for the next to arrive with a left foot volley from David Wallace flashing wide.

Grieve – outstanding at the heart of the visitors defence – headed a corner from Johnson over, then just before full-time, substitute Ryan Errington had a shot which took a deflection and Dryden tipped over.

In time added on, substitute Gareth Bainbridge clipped the ball wide as Wilson advanced, then Glen Taylor just failed to connect at the far post from a cross supplied by Marc Heaman.

However, Ashington, who struggled to find any rhythm or cohesion in their play and in the end got what they deserved from the contest, conceded a second in the fifth additional minute.

Nation were awarded a free kick 25 yards out and Stephen Skinner’s low right footed effort crept between the outstretched arm of Dryden and the post.

Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, Dobby (Bell 83 mins), Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Godsmark (Bainbridge 64 mins), Dugdale (Heaman 77 mins), O’Dea, G Taylor, Johnson. Sub not used: L Scott.

On Saturday Ashington complete their home programme when they entertain Norton & Stockton Ancients at Woodhorn Lane with a 3pm kick-off.

In midweek, Gareth Bainbridge gave Ashington the lead in the 11th minute at Newton Aycliffe but the home side levelled through Daniel Lambert.

Karl Dryden made a terrific save from a Danny Earl penalty in the 39th minute – awarded for a foul by O’Dea on Thomas Hinchley, and it was the latter who was to have the final say.

The midfielder struck a peach of a half volley from fully 35 yards against the wind on the hour which clinched his side three precious points in their bid to avoid relegation.