Colliers leave it late to equalise in derby clash

Colliers captain Andrew Johnson rescued a point for Ashington against Whitley Bay with an injury-time equaliser. Picture by Ian Appleby
Colliers captain Andrew Johnson rescued a point for Ashington against Whitley Bay with an injury-time equaliser. Picture by Ian Appleby

There was high drama at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday as Andrew Johnson salvaged Ashington a point from their local derby against Whitley Bay with a last-ditch equaliser.

The home skipper will surely not score an easier goal in his career as he poked the ball into an empty net after Tony Stephenson’s through pass had been misjudged by advancing Bay keeper Daniel Gladstone.

In a clash which never reached any great heights, the effort extended the Colliers run to four matches, But in truth, this was a contest which the Seahorses should have had sewn up. Instead they paid a huge penalty for missed chances and striker Peter Watling - who had rifled a hat trick the previous week in a 4-1 victory over Bedlington Terriers - was the chief culprit.

Also in an ironic twist, home keeper Conor Grant - who admitted afterwards that he could have done better for the goal he conceded - thwarted Whitley whilst at the same time-keeping his side in the hunt excelling with a trio of saves. And just to compound to the visitors day of frustration, they had midfield orchestrator Paul Robinson red-carded in injury time.

The afternoon had begun with a poignant and impeccably observed minute’s silence for Armistice Day and when play got under way on a surface made greasy by pre-match rain, Robbie Bird raced down the wing but was denied further progress by an excellent tackle just inside the area by ex-Bay player Kyle Downey.

In the tenth minute, the home side had a let off when Bird met a corner on the right from Robinson but looked on as his header thudded against the underside of the bar and was cleared.Within 60 seconds, the game was shrouded in controversy after play had switched to the other end as Gladstone left his box to contest a 50/50 ball with Stephenson on the flank.

After the clash, the ball spun towards the Ashington forward as Gladstone lay on the ground. Stephenson took a touch before referee Daniel Woodward stopped play and awarded the visitors a free kick much to the annoyance of the Ashington contingent.

Then to rub salt into the wound, the Spennymoor-based official gave Stephenson a yellow card. Another Robinson corner was met by Marc Ellison whose first-time drive went out of the ground then Ferrell instigated a move which saw a clever back flick by Stephenson carve out an opening for Glen Taylor but the striker aimed wide of the target.

In the 27th minute, Whitley took the lead when Bird crossed from the right and Michael Laws’ overhead kick from 12 yards crept inside the post after appearing to be fumbled by Grant. Robinson flashed a drive narrowly wide for a Bay side which had edged the period.

In the second half, a procession of opportunities went begging for the visitors.

A promising move with Bird raiding down the wing was brought to a halt when Mr Woodward halted play for a head injury to Downey but on the hour, the lead ought to have been doubled when Craig McFarlane played the ball across for Watling whose shot hit the post.

Then on 70 minutes, Bird pulled the ball back from the by line and Watling’s effort looked a winner until the retrieving Richard Flynn cleared off the line. Robinson tested Grant with a 30-yarder before Ashington almost caught Bay out with a quickly taken free kick.

Ferrell found Lance McGlen but when he played an inviting ball into the danger zone, no one was on hand to apply the finishing touch. Ryan headed wide then substitute Paul Chow set up chances for Watling who was foiled on both occasions by Grant.

Robinson saw red after an incident in the far corner and Watling again wasted another opportunity before Johnson could not believe his luck as he got his side out of jail with the last kick of the game.

Ashington: Grant, McGlen, Davison (Airey 58 minutes), Ferrell, Flynn, Christensen, Oliver, Downey, Stephenson, G Taylor, Johnson. Subs not used: Egen, Richardson, Barnard (gk).

Whitley Bay: Gladstone, McFarlane, McDonald, Smith, Ryan, Ellison, Bird (Chow 85 minutes), Laws, Watling, Robinson, Reed (Brooking 32 minutes). Subs not used: Foster, Redford, Day.