FUMING Ashington CFC manager Gary Middleton has issued an ultimatum to his squad to improve or else.
After seeing his outfit crash to their fifth defeat from the last seven games following a 3-0 reverse against Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane on Friday night, Middleton stormed: “I’m certainly not happy at the minute because we aren’t doing enough collectively.
“The management know performances are not good enough and the players know it’s not good enough either.
“Once again I’ve got to emphasise that the players need to step up to the plate and be counted, and there are not enough of them doing that.
“For weeks we’ve been looking for them to roll their sleeves up but it’s still not happening, so they either turn things around – and quickly – or face the consequences whereby I’ll be forced to bring new players in.”
Reflecting on the defeat at the hands of FA Carlsberg Vase quarter-finalists Whitley Bay, Middleton said: “We could have been two goals down early on because we didn’t start particularly well.”
And he was furious with Bay’s opening goal. “We didn’t put enough pressure on the ball coming into the box,” he said.
“Their lad knocked a good ball into the far post but we haven’t done particularly well as it travelled a long way before McFarlane poked it in.”
Middleton believed his side were still in with a shout at the interval but was left shaking his head in disbelief as the Seahorses doubled their lead at the start of the second period.
He said: “I didn’t feel we were out of it and thought we still had a lot more to give, but we haven’t picked up a second ball in the middle of the park and they got in behind us which was again disappointing.
“I thought if we could get Scott Blandford and Andrew Johnson on the ball running at their defence then we had a chance because the pair of them had shown flashes of that in first half,” he added.
“Again we showed glimpses of getting back into the game but there was nothing to fill me full of enthusiasm.
“We huffed and puffed without putting their goalmouth under siege, but we had given ourselves a mountain to climb.
“We didn’t give a full account of ourselves and the inconsistency is frustrating.
“We had a big crowd and it was a good opportunity for the players, but it was pretty dour stuff and it was comfortable for Whitley Bay.”
Middleton did single out James Harmison and Gareth Rees for special mention.
He said: “I thought James Harmison’s performance on his return after such a long lay off was terrific for 90 minutes whilst Gareth had a smashing game in what was always going to be a difficult contest for him against Chris Fawcett.”