THEY gave their all, fought valiantly, and did their best – but Ashington CFC’s hopes of causing a giant killing act which would have bridged a gap of 50 years since they were last in the first round proper of the FA Cup, evaporated in the sunshine at Blundell Park on Saturday.
They bowed out against Blue Square Bet Premier League side Grimsby Town.
Despite the 5-0 scoreline, which flattered the home side, the plucky Colliers, who had defied the odds in the previous two rounds by knocking out Vauxhall Motors and Guiseley from the higher status Conference North, were certainly not overawed against the professional outfit who are positioned four tiers above them in the pyramid system.
Gary Middleton’s squad apart, spare a thought for the magnificent Ashington supporters – 161 of them to be precise – who used various means of transport to make their way to Cleethorpes and who gave their side maximum backing.
They sang their hearts out before, during and after the 90 minutes.
But they were stunned as early as the fourth minute when the Mariners took the lead.
It was not so much a well crafted goal, more of an error of judgement from keeper Karl Dryden and the nuisance of the wind.
Conor Townsend supplied the cross from the left which swerved and deviated and when Dryden came off his line and failed to make it, Rob Duffy’s looping header from eight yards dropped agonisingly into the net despite last ditch attempts to clear by skipper Liam Atkin.
Much to their credit, the Colliers put the reverse to the back of their minds and settled well and for the next half hour gave as good as they got.
In the 12th minute Jonny Godsmark laid the ball off for Mark O’Dea whose goalbound low right footer from fully 30 yards was saved at the foot of the post by home stopper James McKeown.
Minutes later the keeper held from Chris Fawcett, but when play switched to the other end, a goalbound effort from Charlie I’Anson was headed off the line by James Taylor.
Duffy headed wide a cross from Bradley Wood then Andrew Johnson hooked over from 12 yards following an Atkin free kick.
However, looking to restrict Grimsby to their solitary strike by half-time, Ashington’s plans were hit as the home side moved into a 3-0 lead with two goals in three minutes from top scorer Liam Hearn.
Eight minutes before the break, the ball was played through to Hearn in the inside left position and after his initial shot had been blocked by Dryden, the striker made no mistake from the rebound.
Then Hearn wriggled across a couple of challenges inside the Ashington penalty area and fired into the corner.
And it could have been even worse for the Colliers as Michael Coulson, standing unmarked at the far post, mistimed his header after a scintillating run forward by Serge Makofo, and in the final minute of the half, an effort from Coulson thudded against the bar and rolled into Dryden’s hands.
Early in the second period, Hearn looked set to complete his hat-trick until the advancing Dryden denied him by deflecting the ball for a corner.
Ashington performed admirably for the next 25 minutes until the Mariners went nap through lethal finishing.
Grimsby surged forward in numbers and with great pace, and from such a raid in the 72nd minute, the ball was cut back from the right for substitute Rob Eagle who sized up the situation then unleashed a drive from 20 yards which found the net via the post.
Then 29 seconds after being introduced as a substitute, Dayle Southwell met a cross from the right by Coulson to squeeze a header through the narrowest of gaps between Dryden and the upright.
Ashington simply refused to give up – looking for at least a consolation effort – and following a cross from the left by Craig Scott, Fawcett volleyed wide of McKeown’s right hand post; Johnson headed off target from a Paul Buzzeo centre before Jamie Clarke was through down the right but delayed his shot which allowed a defender to get back to snuff out the danger.
But one lasting memory will be the Ashington supporters who were housed in the Osmond stand doing the Conga, led by a 6ft 8in ‘panda’.
Grimsby Town: McKeown, Kempson, Coulson, Disley, Hearn (Elding 66 minutes), Duffy (Southwell 75 minutes), Makofo (Eagle 56 minutes), Wood, Thanoj, Townsend, I’Anson. Subs not used: Arthur, Silk, Artus, Pearson.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Scott (Deagle 78 minutes), Dugdale (Mullen 63 minutes), Atkin, Grieve, Johnson, O’Dea, Clarke, Godsmark, Fawcett (Buzzeo 75 minutes). Subs not used: Graham, Rees, Hogg.
On Saturday the Colliers return to STL Northern League action when they travel to face Marske.