Striker Marc Walton fired a four-goal salvo as Ashington dramatically bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-goal thriller against Whitley Bay at Hillheads on Tuesday night.
Victory for the Colliers was one matter – but the sublime and quite outstanding finishing from Walton was another as he knocked the stuffing out of the Seahorses in a proverbial game of two halves.
Before kick-off, players, officials and supporters observed a minutes silence in memory of Lee Devlin, a Whitley Bay season ticket holder who died last week.
Once play got under way it was the visitors who had a great opportunity through Dean Critchlow to take an early lead. With only 33 seconds gone, Ashington sprayed the ball from left to right - across a pitch which was in pristine condition – to find Critchlow who cut inside but saw his low effort saved by the legs of home keeper Daniel Gladstone.
However, the incident only served to stoke Whitley up and they responded with workaholic midfield dynamo Paul Robinson firing wide from 22 yards.
Player manager Leon Ryan planted a header not far off target as Bay got stronger and stronger with Ashington having to man the pumps and defend deep.
Stopper Conor Grant had to work overtime to keep the score sheet blank, and he distinguished himself on the quarter hour with a terrific double save.
Grant pushed away a shot from Paul Chow and Robinson must have thought he had fired his side in front from the rebound but saw his 18 yarder turned aside by the agile Grant, who minutes later denied Robbie Bird.
Bay’s pressure was incessant and it came as no surprise when they went in front midway through the period.
Ryan laid the ball into the path of Robinson whose pile driver was blocked for a corner by Flynn, then the centre back came to his side’s rescue to divert the ball behind after Phil Lumsden had slipped on the greasy surface. But Ashington’s defending from the resultant flag kick on the right by Robinson was slack as they allowed Ryan a free header at the near post which he powerfully tucked inside the upright.
The goal prompted a rare opportunity for the visitors - who had struggled to get out of their own half – and after a through pass from Critchlow, Walton clipped the ball past the advancing Gladstone but wide.
Then Tony Stephenson, playing against his former club, headed wide after a corner on the left by Critchlow.
Whitley had a bit of zip and purpose about their play as they dominated the half, and they got a further boost in the first minute of time added on for stoppages when they doubled their lead.
As Ryan went to meet another Robinson corner, referee Lindsey Robinson pointed to the spot for a handling offence and Chow rammed home the resultant penalty.
It was a massive blow to the Colliers who introduced Andy Ferrell for Lewis Davison at the start of the second half.
The newcomer settled in immediately and stamped his authority in the midfield department.
After a threatening run into the box by ex-Collier Jonny Godsmark, another Robinson effort was tipped away by Grant before the visitors got a foothold in the game on 56 minutes.
Walton was baulked in the area by Brad Brooking and after the referee had again pointed to the spot, Walton made no mistake.
Cue an amazing comeback.
Ashington had already upped their game quite substantially and after a 30 yarder from Walton had stung the palms of Gladstone, it was the forward who sent the visiting supporters into raptures as he took his tally for the night to an astonishing four with finishing of the highest order.
The equaliser – quite majestic – came in the 70th minute with an audacious yet exquisite right foot chip from the right. Gladstone was not too far advanced but Walton’s perfectly placed effort floated over the keeper before dropping into the far corner.
Two minutes later, Walton completed his hat-trick to put Ashington ahead.
Again the goal came out of nothing as he cut in from the left following a throw-in and curled a right foot sizzler from 20 yards which crept just inside the post.
Stephenson had a chance but was thwarted by Gladstone before Walton added his and his side’s fourth in the 85th minute.
Critchlow supplied the pass and Walton did the rest, firing a right foot thunderbolt from a tight angle between Gladstone and the near post.
But there was even more drama to come in what was an absorbing spectacle.
Grant saved brilliantly to keep out a Michael Laws header following a Robinson free kick before Craig McFarlane and Bird combined with the latter’s centre going across the face of the Ashington goal.
Then Bay had penalty appeals for handball turned down. Grant had played a blinder, but in the 90th minute Bay reduced the deficit to 4-3 after a howler by the keeper.
McFarlane pumped the ball into the box from the right where Grant dropped the cross to the feet of Chow who rammed home.
Ashington saw out the time added on to clinch a merited victory – on a night to savour for Walton.
Whitley Bay: Gladstone, McFarlane, McDonald, Buzzeo, Ryan, Brooking, Bird, Laws, Godsmark (Redford 75), Chow, Robinson. Subs not used: Johnson, Day, Harris, Hammond.
Ashington: Grant, Oliver, Christensen, Slaughter, Flynn, Lumsden, Critchlow, Downey (Novak 70), Walton, Stephenson (Elliott 82), Davison (Ferrell 46). Sub not used: Barnard.