AN INJURY time goal by Andrew Johnson took Ashington into the last 32 of this season’s FA Vase as they beat AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
With the scores locked at 1-1 and extra time looming, the decisive strike came in the fourth minute of time added on.
The Northamptonshire-based outfit had brought an estimated 100 supporters with them – but it was the home crowd who were celebrating at the final whistle after a cool finish by Johnson.
The striker received a superb diagonal cross from the right by James Taylor, took a touch and then clipped a left footer wide of keeper Quincy Shorunmu with the ball nestling inside the corner of the net.
Rushden & Diamonds, members of the United Counties League, thought the goal and result was cruel on them after they had to play more than 40 minutes of the second half with ten men after defender Jake Gillingwater had been shown a straight red card for hauling down Johnson.
But the Colliers had more possession – especially after Gillingwater’s indiscretion – coupled with more chances and deservedly went through to the next round.
The home side made a great start too by taking the lead in the eighth minute.
Darren Lough played the ball to Johnson who turned a defender and advanced down the right before whipping over a cross which Rushden skipper Chris Hope sliced into his own net.
Diamonds responded with centre forward Jake Newman venturing into the area until he was stopped in his tracks by a great tackle from Ashington skipper Liam Atkin.
Johnson – a thorn to the visitors all afternoon – then pulled the ball square for Mark O’Dea whose instinctive first time drive flashed the wrong side of the upright.
Marc Walton was off target before Diamonds were opened up again with James Taylor and Walton linking well to find Johnson, but his cross was too deep and the ball was cleared.
The game was even and after Walton had sliced a volley wide, a shot from Joe Merrill was clutched by Dryden and a low cross from the same player was turned over by Newman.
The visitors had started to get into the game and they equalised in the 39th minute at a time when the Colliers were down to ten men with Lough off the field receiving treatment.
The goal was simplicity itself with the unmarked Newman being allowed a free run to bullet home a header from six yards from a right-sided corner delivered by Sam Brown.
The action was frenetic for the opening ten minutes of the second half.
After a mere 23 seconds following a throw-in, the ball was played across to Sean McBride whose right foot effort from 22 yards had goal written all over it until home stopper Dryden got across to tip it over in brilliant fashion.
Minutes later, substitute Gareth Bainbridge – on for Lough – cut inside and his left footer was similarly pushed over by Shorunmu.
In the 49th, Craig Scott met a corner from the right to steer the ball across goal where Matty Grieve’s header from close range clipped the top of the bar and went over.
Then came a flashpoint when Diamonds were reduced to ten men when Gillingwater was sent off.
Johnson received a clearance by Dryden and when he took the ball past Gillingwater just outside the area he was clipped by the defender.
Referee Shaun Hudson brandished the red card and Walton’s effort from the ensuing free kick only just cleared the bar.
Still the intensity continued, and after a shot from O’Dea had been pushed away by the keeper, Bainbridge’s cross-shot was acrobatically cleared off the line by Alex Deakin.
Diamonds broke quickly from the resultant corner and threatened but Atkin got back to snuff out the danger.
Ashington were forcing the issue against the ten men and on the hour Paul Antony went close from distance.
However, the visitors, despite being a man light, were defending exceptionally well with Shorunmu saving at the second attempt from Johnson then denying Walton by blocking the ball with his legs.
In the 89th minute, a melee developed on the goal-line following a corner on the left by Walton, and after consulting with his assistant, referee Hudson brandished a red card to Ashington defender Scott.
However, there was more drama to follow as in the 94th minute, Johnson’s strike settled the issue which sent the home fans into raptures.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Scott, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson, Dugdale, Walton, Lough (Bainbridge 42 minutes), O’Dea. Subs not used: Williams, Heaman, Towart.
On Saturday, Ashington are at home to Hebburn, kick-off 3pm.
Highlights of the game can be seen here.