Ashington’s run of six matches without defeat came to an end at Sam Smiths Park on Saturday as Newcastle Benfield took their own unbeaten sequence into double figures with a 2-0 win.
A goal in either half from Michael Riley and Paul Brayson was enough for the Lions, who just shaded the game over the 90 minutes.
Ashington’s performance was better in the second period whilst the hosts, who had won their last eight games and who started the brighter, were the more purposeful outfit.
But in the final analysis, Steve Bowey’s outfit seized on and punished errors in midfield which led to the decisive goals.
Kyle Oliver returned to the Ashington ranks following suspension but Liam Atkin, Craig Scott and Lance McGlen were ruled out through injury, meaning Gary Middleton still fielded a side which included an entire back four of players operating in unfamiliar positions.
Inside 76 seconds, Benfield were on the attack and it required a terrific block in the nick of time from James Taylor to deny Brayson.
From the resultant corner, visiting keeper Karl Dryden pushed away a chipped effort from Tony Stephenson.
Then on the quarter hour, the stopper thwarted Michael Riley.
Ashington came into the game and should have taken the lead on 17 minutes from their first opportunity.
Lee Scott met an Andrew Johnson corner to direct a thumping header which was parried by Andrew Grainger in the home goal and from the rebound, Sam Norris – playing against his former club – drove an effort which struck the angle of post and bar with the ball falling kindly into Grainger’s arms.
However, it was the home side who continued to threaten.
Dryden turned away from Chris Carr following a free kick and then it required a joint block from Glen Taylor and Scott Blandford to stop Brayson.
Dryden denied Steven Baptist then when play switched and Marc Walton latched onto a pass from Johnson but saw his right footer deflected.
The hosts eventually took the lead in the 24th minute.
Andrew Dugdale – another facing his ex-club – tried to play the ball across the park and only presented possession to Brayson. The ex Bedlington and Blyth Spartans forward found Riley who beat his marker then curled the ball left footed around Dryden and into the far corner of the net.
Tony Stephenson had another opportunity but fired tamely at Dryden, then on the half hour Benfield broke and it took another splendid tackle from James Taylor to snuff out the danger.
For all there lack of chances, the Colliers could easily have levelled four minutes before the break.
David Carson’s through ball was glanced on by Glen Taylor but Oliver tried to curl the ball into the far corner of the net and lofted over instead.
Oliver and Taylor were involved in the final move of the half with the latter playing the ball in where the deftest of headers went to Grainger.
Ashington showed more purpose after the break and following a free kick pumped forward by Blandford, Glen Taylor’s snapshot from the left touchline saw Grainger scampering across his goal but the ball drifted wide of the post.
Then after Walton had guided on a ball from Blandford, Glen Taylor’s goal bound effort was brilliantly blocked by half-time substitute Steven Stewart.
On the hour, Ashington pieced together their best move of the game.
Johnson laid off a cross from Oliver and Norris’s first time strike from the edge of the area whistled only inches wide of Grainger’s left hand post.
Carr made great strides to plant a header narrowly over before Benfield got their second a quarter of an hour from time.
Substitute Dean Briggs, who had replaced the injured Dugdale, lost possession midway in his own half and when former Ashington man Baptist threaded a pass to Brayson, the striker coolly chipped the ball over the advancing Dryden and into the corner of the net.
The goal prompted an almost immediate response by the Wansbeck side and from a ball played in by sub Kyle Downey, Walton was blocked and Glen Taylor’s effort was tipped over by Grainger.
In the closing stages, Dryden palmed away from Brayson then after Baptist had sliced his kick from a pull back, Bowey was denied by the keeper.
Ashington: Dryden, Lee Scott, Oliver, Dugdale (Briggs 37 mins), J Taylor, Blandford, Norris (Downey 64 mins), Johnson, Walton, G Taylor, Carson. Subs not used: Jackson, Race, Barnard.
On Saturday Ashington are at home to Newton Aycliffe. Kick-off to be confirmed.