It has been quite a week at Ashington FC following the appointment of Steve Harmison as manager.
The attention and interest which followed was major and within 48 hours the Colliers had booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup with a 1-0 victory over Bishop Auckland courtesy of a Glen Taylor header ten minutes into the second half.
However, Saturday’s identical slender win against Sunderland RCA, settled with a superb strike on the hour by Kyle Oliver, cannot be understated with the Woodhorn Lane outfit too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
And on the day, with victories for Billingham Synthonia and Celtic Nation - two clubs below them - Oliver’s goal carried even greater significance.
The game produced few clear cut chances but was nevertheless settled with a goal out of the top drawer.
Lewis Davison, Lance McGlen, Glen Taylor and Kyle Downey were initially involved in a constructive free flowing move deep inside the RCA half, and when the latter slipped the ball into the path of Oliver, he curled a masterful right footer from the edge of the penalty area wide of keeper Jonathan Carmichael and into the net via the base of the post.
The home side had started the game well and after only 79 seconds Tony Stephenson cleverly disguised a pass to Glen Taylor whose left foot shot was gathered by the diving Carmichael.
A cross by Oliver then eluded Marc Walton before the striker, after receiving from Davison and spotting Carmichael off his line, attempted an audacious chip from fully 30 yards. Unfortunately for Walton, he failed to get enough height on the effort which was clawed down by the stopper.
Taylor had a shot deflected over before RCA had their first sniff at goal when Stephen Callen’s attempt was parried by Conor Grant with skipper Ben Christensen completing the clearance.
Ashington, showing plenty of tenacity, continued to knock on the RCA door with Taylor being blocked out then having another pot at goal held by Carmichael.
At the other end, Colin Larkin had a shot fielded by Grant before Harmison made a trademark block to thwart Kieran Megran.
Early in the second period Larkin had a shot which drifted just over then Grant held from Megran.
The visitors had started the brighter and after another effort by Larkin had been blocked by McGlen and a cross by Michael Charlton cleared by Harmison, the Colliers survived successive penalty appeals – both for handball – inside the space of 15 seconds which were not given.
After Oliver had broken the deadlock, Larkin went close and a header from John Jury was grasped by Grant.
With time running out, Davison headed wide from a Taylor cross then two minutes from the end, a right footer from 18 yards by substitute Phil Airey thudded against the bar.
The nerves were jangling as the game entered stoppage time, but on the day Ashington defended magnificently and at the final whistle were rewarded with three precious points.
Ashington: Grant, Christensen, McGlen, Oliver, Harmison, Buchanan, Stephenson (Moscrop 41), Downey, Walton (Airey 73), G Taylor, Davison. Subs not used: Hayton, Robson, Barnard.
On Saturday, the Colliers travel to face league leaders West Auckland (3pm).