ASHINGTON CFC etched another piece of history into their record books on Saturday when they reached the fourth round of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the first time in their history following an outstanding victory at Dunkirk.
The Vase replaced the FA Amateur Cup after the 1973-74 season – months after the Colliers had lost 3-0 to Bishops Stortford in a semi-final replay at Brentford’s Griffin Park following a 0-0 draw at Sunderland’s Roker Park – but Saturday’s success in Nottingham eclipsed Ashington’s previous record in the new competition having lost 3-0 in a replay to Cammell Laird in the third round 20 years ago.
What’s more, the victory in Robin Hood country was nothing more than Gary Middleton’s men deserved.
Yet the Colliers had to do it the hard way after trailing shortly before the interval when Marquin Smith fired Dunkirk ahead.
However, after Scott Blandford had struck an equaliser early in the second half, Phill Bell smashed the ball home from the penalty spot with a little over quarter of an hour remaining to sink the Boatmen.
But strikes from Blandford and Bell apart, there was so much more to admire from the Colliers on the day.
The back four of James Taylor and Darren Lough, coupled to central lynchpins Liam Atkin and Iain Nickalls, all turned in excellent displays in front of assured keeper Karl Dryden, who had little to do throughout the afternoon.
The midfielders and strikers all played their parts too, but in the diminutive Jonny Godsmark, Ashington had a diamond in their side who tormented both full backs all afternoon, and it was his darting run into the area which brought about the crucial spot kick.
Godsmark could so easily have given his side the perfect start.
Blandford’s pass released Bell down the left and when he pulled the ball back, Godsmark struck a venomous right footer from just inside the area which whistled a yard over.
In the tenth minute, Stephen Young went to ground inside the area after taking on a pass from Godsmark but the referee waved aside penalty appeals, then a snapshot by Andrew Johnson from 20 yards following a free-kick was held by Malak.
Sixty seconds later, Taylor found Godsmark down the flank, and when he crossed Bell’s flick was taken by the keeper.
Ashington continued to probe and in the 36th minute a precision pass from Blandford opened up a golden opportunity for Young.
The striker was put clear and only had the advancing Malak to beat but saw his first time effort from outside the area superbly blocked by the stopper.
Five minutes later, the home side edged in front with a goal against the run of play.
It stemmed from work down the left flank, and when the ball fell to Marquin Smith, he pulled the trigger with a low right footed drive from 14 yards into the corner.
It was a massive body blow to the Colliers, especially just before the interval and after the visitors had unquestionably been the better outfit.
But four minutes after the interval, Middleton’s side were back on terms – courtesy of Blandford.
The midfielder’s graft and determination had resulted in a throw on the left, and when Young quickly returned the ball into play from the touchline to the advanced Lough, the full back pulled it back to the edge of the area for Blandford who made no mistake with a measured right foot effort which left Malak helpless before bulging the top corner of the net.
Within a minute Ashington could so easily have turned the game completely on its head.
Godsmark found Johnson who laid the ball invitingly into the path of Lough whose first timer flashed inches past the upright.
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At the other end, Anthony Gregory met a left wing corner to place a downward header just wide, but two minutes later Young squandered another marvellous opening. Bell glanced on to Godsmark who played the ball through to Young but his weak effort was grasped by Malak.
A cross from the right by Young deceived Malak to clip the crossbar before Godsmark again weaved his magic, turning McGeown inside out with an adventurous run into the box until he was scythed down by the full back.
Sheffield-based referee Alan Hull had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Bell did the rest sending Malak the wrong way from the spot.
With time running out, the home keeper smothered from Bell and in the second minute of time added on, the lively Godsmark played a one-two with Bell but was denied by the sprawling Malak.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Lough, Shaw, Atkin, Nickalls, Godsmark, Blandford, Young (Bainbridge 85 mins), Bell, Johnson. Subs not used: O’Dea, Walmsley, Colvin.
On Saturday, Ashington return to league action with a home game at Woodhorn Lane against Tow Law Town (3pm).