THE finest hour of Ashington CFC’s Northern League campaign this term came at precisely 13 minutes to five on Saturday.
That was when Sunderland-based referee Warren Broadbent blew the final whistle which saw the Colliers topple league leaders Shildon at Woodhorn Lane and avenge the hurt of a 4-0 drubbing in the corresponding fixture at the end of October.
Gary Middleton’s side were full value for their win against the Durham side.
However, the Railwaymen will look back on a key incident six minutes from half-time as not only proving costly but also derailing their chances of lifting the STL championship come the end of the season.
Ashington skipper Chris Scott swung over a corner from the right which was handled inside the area by Gary Brown and referee Warren Broadbent pointed to the spot.
Brown spoke out of turn and was duly given his marching orders by the official before the patient Jonny Wightman sent Shildon keeper Dan Staples the wrong way lashing his penalty into the net.
It had been a cat and mouse unspectacular opening even if Wightman was denied by Staples a mere 25 seconds into the game after latching onto a pass from Darren Lough, the keeper anticipating the danger well and doing enough to deny the striker.
Thereafter a corner on the right by Craig Price saw Jamie Harwood have a header which was directed straight at home stopper Karl Dryden, then a low centre from the right by Chris Hughes went across the face of the goal.
Paul Dunn – on his return to the side – had an effort from a Wightman throw pushed away by Staples, but when play switched, Sam Garvie’s shot was blocked by Dryden and a follow up by Danny Richmond was cleared by James Taylor.
The Colliers had struggled to create in front of goal but they hit a good seam from the half hour mark.
Wightman was again thwarted by Staples after a move involving Liam Atkin, Mark O’Dea and Taylor, then a cross from Lough saw Dunn’s goalbound header brilliantly parried by the keeper.
After taking the lead from the spot, the home side were rocked when the Railwaymen got back on track to level a minute from the break.
A free kick on the left by Price was glanced on and Hughes made no mistake volleying home.
Early in the second half, a short free kick by substitute Damen Mullen saw Scott’s driven ball in glanced wide by Stephen Young before the Colliers regained the lead in the 52nd minute through Scott.
Again a long throw-in from the left by Wightman deep into the Shildon penalty area caused problems and when the visitors only half cleared the ball, Scott, lurking on the edge of the area, pounced to clip a superb half volley wide of Staples.
It could have been three only five minutes later when Young laid off a ball by Wightman but Johnson’s first touch was too heavy and eventually his shot was deflected for a corner.
Back came Shildon with Hughes and Garvie linking well to find Sonny Andrews but he drove across goal.
The ten men of Shildon were still not out of the contest and in the 72nd minute following good work by the busy Harwood, Andrews struck a chance wide when well placed.
However, with ten minutes remaining, a ‘goal of the season’ contender from Johnson put the seal on a fine victory.
The midfielder ran onto a ball laid off by Young and without breaking stride, whipped a stunning right footed half volley from fully 25 yards over the advancing Staples and into the corner of the net.
Although Ashington played some excellent football during the 90 minutes and fully deserved all three points, the highlight of their performance was a phenomenal work ethic from every player who wore a black and white shirt.
And another plus point was an accomplished display from full back Dunn on his return to the side following a lengthy lay off through injury.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Dunn, O’Dea (Blandford 83 minutes), Atkin, Rees (Harmison 54 minutes), Johnson, Scott, Young, Wightman, Lough (Mullen 37 minutes). Sub not used: Bainbridge
On Saturday Ashington travel to Stokesley.