Colliers lose two-goal lead but take a point

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IT could have been an even happier Ashington contingent which left West Auckland’s Darlington Road ground on Saturday after the visitors held a two-goal lead at one stage.

But in truth, Gary Middleton’s men will be satisfied to have put a stop to West’s unrelenting home record against the Colliers.

Still smarting from an unconvincing second half performance which culminated in a 2-1 reverse against Whitley Bay the previous week, the Wansbeck outfit faced a clearly formidable challenge against the County Durham side.

West, currently third in the Ebac Northern League first division, boasted a record of six wins out of eight previous contests.

On top of that, Peter Dixon’s side had won ten out of 13 home encounters – but on the day when a heavy pitch played a significant part – the Woodhorn Lane side could so easily have taken all three points for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.

There are fine margins in football – just ask Ashington pair Matty Grieve and Phill Bell.

Grieve, commanding at centre back and later praised by his manager, made one error in 90 minutes which proved costly and led to West’s equaliser.

Ten minutes earlier, Bell had come within inches of claiming what would have simply been a wonder goal and would have stretched Ashington’s lead to 3-1.

Handed a role on the left hand side of midfield, Bell had struck the first opportunity of the game wide of keeper Neal Atkinson’s right hand post from a Grieve free kick.

Then after Stuart Banks had driven feebly past, the Colliers took the lead.

Paul Antony’s free kick from halfway was volleyed across by Glen Taylor to Andrew Johnson who side-footed home from three yards to register his 21st of the season.

The Colliers continued to dominate possession and on 20 minutes another delivery from a dead ball kick by Antony saw Glen Taylor glance a header wide at the near post.

West forced their way into the contest and after an overhead by Banks had drifted past the upright, Paul Garthwaite missed a glorious opening to equalise just prior to the half hour mark.

The home side broke quickly from defending an Ashington corner and Campbell played the ball across into space for the unmarked Garthwaite, who standing on the penalty spot and with Dryden advanced, clipped the ball over the keeper but wide of the post.

The game continued to too and fro and after the alert and dangerous looking Campbell had clipped the bar with a shot, a centre by Phil Gray went right across the face of the Ashington goal.

However, the visitors ought to have doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time through Antony.

Johnson did the spadework moving into the area and when he pulled the ball back from the by-line, Antony blazed over the bar from six yards.

But within three minutes of the second half, Glen Taylor continued his scoring streak, netting for the fifth consecutive game.

Skipper Liam Atkin found Johnson with a throw-in on the right and the striker turned to fire in a cross which was steered home on the volley by Taylor.

Within three minutes, West had halved the margin, through nemesis Mattie Moffat.

A corner on the left by Campbell was played back into the middle by Daryll Hall for Moffat who turned the ball home from close range.

Glen Taylor lashed over from 20 yards and after Atkinson had spilled another effort from the striker, Andrew Dugdale’s lob from the left drifted wide before the action continued at the other end with Dryden denying Campbell then keeping out a shot from Moffat.

With quarter of an hour remaining, James Taylor crossed for Bell who just inside the penalty area showed impeccable technique to hit a screaming right footer on the volley but with Atkinson well beaten, the ball struck the bar.

Ashington had another chance when Johnson looked threatening as he burst into the box, but when he tried to play the ball inside to Bell, it was intercepted.

With six minutes remaining, West got back on terms.

A headed back-pass by Grieve for Dryden lacked the necessary power and presented Campbell with an opportunity which he gratefully accepted, side-stepping the keeper and slotting home.

A game of thrills and spills continued right until the final whistle, with Glen Taylor firing wide from distance and substitute Jonny Godsmark finding Johnson who was blocked by Atkinson.

For West, Campbell got behind the Colliers defence but when he drew the ball back, substitute Matthew Coad drove woefully wide, then the home side had shouts for a penalty unanswered by referee Paul Stalker.

Ashington: Dryden, Mellish, Scott, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, J Taylor, Dugdale, Johnson, G Taylor, Bell (Godsmark 87 mins). Subs not used: Hodgson, Dobby, Heaman.

On Saturday Ashington take on FA Vase quarter-finalists Shildon at Woodhorn Lane (3pm).

The Colliers then travel to face Norton & Stockton Ancients on Teesside on Wednesday, February 20, for a fixture which was originally abandoned at half-time in November due to fog with the Wansbeck side 3-1 ahead.