League campaign drifting to a close

IF only Ashington CFC had something to play for as their league season draws to a close then may be it would act as a spur for them to give that bit extra in matches.

Following the euphoria which surrounded their well deserved victory over FA Vase finalists Whitley Bay the previous weekend, which was followed up by a low key affair despite a 2-1 win over South Shields in midweek, apart from finishing in as high a league position as possible, it is really a case of the curtain cannot come down quickly enough on their campaign.

Yet if the outcome was successful from last night’s (Wednesday) semi-final clash against Newcastle United Reserves in the Sage Northumberland Senior Cup – and local rivals Blyth Spartans stand waiting to face the victors – then Gary Middleton’s side would at least be in the hunt to seek some silverware next month.

On Saturday, the 3-2 defeat at Sunderland RCA suggests a five-goal thriller, but this was not the case.

Two goals behind, Ashington did rally to claw themselves level, and even threatened to go on and take all three points only for RCA to find a winner eight minutes from time in fortuitous circumstances.

Not that on the balance of play the home side got anything more than they deserved. Far from it.

Ashington lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and rarely threatened during a first half in which the superb Keith Graydon ran the show by bossing the midfield.

And ironically after Graydon had set up the opener, it was a cross-shot by the ex-Spennymoor and Bedlington player which eventually settled the outcome of the game with James Harmison slicing an attempted clearance into his own net.

Ashington’s only effort on goal in the first period arrived in the ninth minute following a throw-in on the right.

Scott Blandford and Jonny Godsmark were involved but the move ended with the former’s weak shot being dealt with comfortably by home keeper Gary Hoggeth.

Three minutes later RCA went ahead, courtesy of a deflection.

Graydon’s shot was blocked but the ball ran free to Matty Tymon who coolly slotted a low left foot drive under the body of Karl Dryden.

Graydon tried his luck from distance, the ball going wide of Dryden’s right hand post, then the schemer again set up Tymon who was foiled by Dryden with Gareth Rees clearing off the line.

Before the interval, Tymon lashed over, and early into the second period following a ball knocked in by Paul Dunn, Phill Bell’s header set up Godsmark but he clipped a half volley well over from 14 yards.

Graydon hit the side netting then Joe Walton fed Leon Carling whose drive was well saved by Dryden going to his right.

Bell had a header clutched by Hoggeth before the home side doubled their lead in the 55th minute.

Walton supplied a cross from the right which saw the unmarked Tymon direct a header across Dryden and into the far corner.

Two minutes later it could have been three after a mix up when Dryden tried to clear and the ball cannoned off Gary Shields but Rees averted the danger.

The Colliers eventually started to piece together some neat football and incredibly after a sub standard performance, not only began to dominate but also drew level with two goals in ten minutes.

The first was a well worked goal which involved Blandford and Godsmark, and when the latter laid the ball off, Bell applied the finish with a right foot shot from eight yards.

Hoggeth did well to parry from Damen Mullen but the keeper had no chance of preventing the equaliser from Darren Lough.

Bell played the ball down the right to substitute Andrew Johnson and when he crossed, the in-rushing Lough rifled the ball home from close range.

Johnson had a shot fisted away by Hoggeth whilst Carl Beasley headed wide from a Graydon cross, then eight minutes from time who else but Graydon’s cross-shot saw Harmison the unfortunate victim as he found his own net.

In the first minute of time added on, a cross by Lough was met by Blandford whose goalbound effort was blocked by Scott Richards and RCA defended the resulting corner before the final whistle blew.

Ashington: Dryden, Blandford, Lough, Harmison, Atkin, Rees, Dunn (Taylor 78 mins), Scott, Bell, Godsmark (Bainbridge 85 mins), Mullen (Johnson 70 mins). Sub not used: Young.

Ashington have three league games remaining, on Saturday at Newcastle Benfield, then on Wednesday, April 27, at Norton and Stockton Ancients, before finishing at Consett on Saturday, April 30.