One bit of quality enough to win – Middleton

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ASHINGTON boss Gary Middleton admitted after his side had scored a last ditch winner on Saturday which took them through to the next round of the FA Vase that one bit of quality in the second half had undone AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

The Northamptonshire-based opponents had been forced to play with ten men from the 50th minute when defender Jake Gillingwater was red carded for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Middleton said: “The ten men defended well whilst we lacked a bit of creativity – but it was one bit of quality from the second half which has culminated in our winning goal.

“It was a great diagonal ball from James Taylor and Andrew Johnson has pulled off the shoulder of the full back, taken a great touch and stuck the ball in the back of the net.

“That’s cup football; sometimes it’s harsh and Rushden probably feel hard done by because they have defended for so long with ten men and done well.

“We ourselves weren’t great for 40 minutes and lacked a bit of quality, but the important thing was that we kept going.

“It’s fantastic to be in the last 32 – and I don’t know who are more tired – the players or myself.”

Initially pleased with his outfit from the kick-off, Middleton was disappointed that they allowed the visitors into the game.

He added: “I thought we started really well up the hill. We got the goal early doors but were quite wasteful after that with our possession in the final third.

“They didn’t really threaten and I thought after about 20 to 25 minutes we took our foot off the pedal a bit and Rushden came back into the game.

“They looked dangerous from a couple of set pieces before they scored their equaliser five minutes from half-time, which was disappointing from our point of view because we had worked on certain things.

“It was difficult getting out of that bottom half. We knew we needed to keep them penned in the second half against the strong wind and up the hill.

“We got a break with a long ball from Karl (Dryden) and Andrew (Johnson) has got in behind and their lad has pulled him down – and I thought a sending off was the only decision the referee could make.”

But the boss believed his side became lackadaisical after the dismissal.

“From that you expect us to go on and boss the game and take advantage of them having a man less, but give them there due, they defended well,” he said.

“They were organised and hit us on the counter on a few occasions whilst we were just a little bit lackadaisical.

“I could see that right through the side once they went down to ten, and I think it’s a mentality thing where players believe they don’t need to work as hard or think as quick.

“Although the quality wasn’t great and we lacked a bit of creativity from the midfield three and the three up top and things were just not happening, the lads kept going and got their rewards with Johnson’s winner.”

Middleton also believed that luck evens itself out.

“It was disappointing to have Craig Scott red carded, but the injury to Darren Lough who had to come off is also a blow,” he said.

“So you could say that we have been hit by a bit of bad luck but then got a bit of luck at the end.

“Hopefully the injury to Darren will not be too bad and we will assess it this week.”