MARC Walton scored his 23rd goal of the season at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday – but it was not enough to give his side maximum points from an uninspiring contest against Hebburn Town.
Instead, Ashington had to settle for a share of the spoils as the Hornets – who possess one of the best away records in the division – deservedly equalised in the second half through Dan Kirkup.
But on a day when his side failed to find any rhythm in what was a disappointing and poor display, the problems just continue to mount for manager Gary Middleton.
Midfielder turned striker Andrew Johnson, who scored the injury time winner in the FA Vase win against Rushden & Diamonds the previous weekend, picked up a calf injury in the same game and was ruled out against Hebburn.
Then 25 minutes in on Saturday, David Molloy, a recent acquisition from Newcastle Benfield, picked up an ankle ligament knock.
With Craig Scott having working commitments, Middleton’s squad was stretched to the limit and the boss – with only 12 fit players – once again called up resources from the Colliers reserve side to be amongst the substitutes.
For all that, Middleton’s outfit had the boost of a fourth minute goal from the boot of Walton.
It was a well worked and constructed effort with Mark O’Dea finding Darren Lough on the left who advanced and when his low drive was deflected onto the post by keeper Dan Regan, the ball ran to Walton who fired home from an acute angle.
Hebburn replied with a shot from Stuart Nicholson from the edge of the area which went wide, but in a half where chances were few and far between, it was the home side who came the closest.
On the quarter hour, Lough again ventured into the area but tried to curl the ball with the outside of his left foot which went past the post, then a pass from O’Dea almost unlocked the door for Walton but keeper Regan was quick to react and blocked the striker.
The second half was similar to the first. Stuart Nicholson cut inside and let fly with a right footer which was held by Karl Dryden, then when play switched immediately to the other end, Walton tried a spectacular chip from all of 30 yards which drifted just wide.
Andrew Dugdale and substitute Gareth Bainbridge fired the wrong side of the post before Tony Stephenson set up Paul Gardiner who weaved inside but shot wide.
The Hornets came back to level in the 73rd minute. They had pushed Dan Kirkup up front and the move paid dividends when he met a cross from the left and hooked home on the half volley from 12 yards.
Ashington had the best chance to claim a victory when in the 88th minute they were awarded a free kick 25 yards out, but Walton’s right footed effort was palmed away by Regan.
Ashington: Dryden, Williams, Lough, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, J Taylor, Dugdale, Walton, Molloy (Bainbridge 25 mins), O’Dea. Subs not used: Moscrop, Heaman, Towart.
On Saturday Ashington are away to Spennymoor with a new kick-off time of 1pm.