Andrew Johnson scored a superb hat-trick as Ashington bounced back in tremendous fashion following their FA Vase exit with a 5-1 hammering over West Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.
In many respects it was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Colliers.
So inexplicably poor on Saturday when they crashed out of the Vase 2-1 against Cambridgeshire outfit Wisbech Town, Gary Middleton’s squad responded in the best possible fashion against the Durham outfit, who as a result tasted their first away defeat of the campaign and only their second reverse in 26 league matches this season.
But it was skipper Johnson who led from the front, capping off a fine individual display as he completed his treble from the penalty spot in the dying seconds of the contest.
Middleton was forced to make a late change with Martin Brittain pulling out of the starting 11 and being replaced by Sam Norris.
West, who had progressed in the Vase with an extra-time victory over Whickham, had the opening chance which fell John Campbell’s way in the eighth minute, but his shot was deflected for a corner.
Ashington’s first opportunity saw Johnson fire straight at keeper Jordan Nixon before a move involving Johnson, Glen Taylor and Norris ended with Kyle Downey lashing the ball over the bar.
However, the home side took control of the game when they left the visitors numb with three goals inside a ten-minute period.
On the half hour, a cross-shot from the right by the Kyle Oliver – who was the outstanding player on the park – left Nixon mesmerised as it floated over his head and flew into the far corner of the net.
Five minutes later, Oliver’s free kick was headed down by Glen Taylor for Johnson who finished with aplomb, stroking a sweet half volley wide of Nixon.
The action was coming thick and fast and after Daryll Hall had directed a header straight at home stopper Karl Dryden, play immediately switched to the other end where Johnson drove agonisingly wide of the far post.
But in the 39th minute, Downey’s short pass found Darren Lough on the left and when he crossed into the danger zone, Glen Taylor beat Nixon in the air to knock down a header which he converted himself.
Auckland boss Peter Dixon brought on Mattie Moffat and Stuart Banks for the start of the second period and the visitors reduced the leeway inside ten minutes when Steven Richardson converted a cross from the right.
Five minutes later, Ashington restored their three-goal advantage through Johnson.
The Colliers skipper latched onto a precision through pass from Lough to reach the ball just ahead of the advancing Nixon and stroke home.
The home side – who defended magnificently – were a real threat on the counter attack and Johnson missed out, firing wide following a Glen Taylor cross.
However, in the first minute of time added on, Ashington went nap with Johnson completing his hat-trick.
Glen Taylor played the ball through the middle which saw Johnson clipped by Nixon with Darlington-based referee Tom Rogers pointing to the spot and the home skipper made no mistake from the resultant penalty with a firmly driven right footer into the corner of the net.
Ashington: Dryden, L Scott, Blandford, Oliver, J Taylor, Christensen, Norris (Carson 82 mins), Downey (McGlen 85 mins), Johnson, G Taylor, Lough. Subs not used: Walton, Barnard.