Gary Middleton admitted that although his side did not fire on all cylinders in their 3-1 victory over Billingham Synthonia at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday, he was nevertheless impressed by their overall performance.
Hard on the heels of reverses against Spennymoor Town and neighbours Bedlington, Middleton saw his outfit avoid an unwanted hat-trick of defeats as James Novak, Kyle Oliver and Glen Taylor all found the net against the Teessiders.
Middleton said: “I thought over the 90 minutes it was a really good team display and impressive win.
“We knew it was going to be difficult because the pitch was not great to encourage good football and also the wind was horrendous for the entire game and was going to play its part.
“We were not at our best and it was a result which we had to grind out, but I’m more than happy.”
The boss acknowledged that facing a Synners side who were second top of the current form guide was always going to pose a severe test.
“It was a game between two very evenly matched teams and I knew it could go either way,” he said.
“I thought Scott Blandford was terrific at left back for us; Ben Christensen and Craig Scott outstanding in centre defence and James Novak workmanlike on the left side of midfield, but we had to make sure that we did enough with or without the ball to win the game – and every one of the lads did that.”
Middleton was pleased as Novak struck his first goal on his full debut.
He said: “First half we started quite well. There was not an awful lot in it apart from the wind, which was making it difficult for them to get out of there own half.
“We looked quite dangerous from set pieces but I think the first bit of quality football came with our first goal.
“The pass has come into Glen Taylor’s feet who has set it off first time for Andrew Johnson who is running through.
“He has been unfortunate as the Billingham lad has tackled him but the ball has ran nicely for Novak who has finished it with aplomb.”
Ashington’s second, which came shortly before the interval, also delighted Middleton.
He said: “Johnson advanced down the left and showed a little bit of composure to pull the ball back to set Kyle Oliver up and to be fair, it’s something which we have been emphasising to the lads to do ever since we went out of the FA Vase against Wisbech.
“We are getting into some great positions in and around the box in the final third but don’t make enough use of it – our final ball either lets us down or we pick the wrong pass or wrong decision.
“So it was nice to compliment the lads at half-time about scoring two team goals.”
Kicking into the teeth of the strong wind in the second half, Middleton told his players that they would have to work extra hard.
“The second half was always going to be a totally different game for us against the wind,” he said.
“We had to try and get out of our half and we encouraged them to dig in, work hard and to press a good footballing Billingham team and not give them opportunities.
“Unfortunately, early in the period, Kris Hughes got the wrong side of Lance McGlen who has brought him down in the area and it was a penalty from which they scored.
“But to be fair we showed good character and at 2-1 I thought we got into good areas through Johnson, Glen Taylor, Novak and David Carson.”
Middleton believed his side required a third goal to give themselves breathing space and described Glen Taylor’s effort which clinched all three points as being ‘fantastic.’
“I said to my assistant Perry Briggs that I thought we needed a third and it was a fantastic goal,” he said.
“Kyle Oliver – who I thought was superb throughout – started the move off and again showed composure.
“Instead of shooting he has taken a touch and played in Carson, who has taken care and put a great ball into the box for Glen who has netted with a great header at the far post.”