Ashington went down to a third consecutive home defeat on Friday night against title challengers Shildon.
A goal in either half from ex-Whitley Bay midfielder Lee Paul Scroggins and full back Darren Richardson was enough to wrap up a comfortable victory to keep the Railwaymen’s challenge on track whilst at the same time derail the Colliers who still harboured hopes of a top six finish.
Ashington made inroads as early as the fourth minute when Kyle Oliver and Andrew Johnson linked to release Glen Taylor, whose cross was cleared from the danger zone.
However, it took a terrific block by ex-Shildon defender Ben Christensen to deny Paul Connor two minutes later after a raid down the right flank.
On the quarter hour, a cross by Billy Greulich-Smith was punched out by home keeper Karl Dryden to Scroggins whose low 25 yarder was blocked by his own striker, Connor, inside the six-yard box.
Then following a one-two between Johnson and Kyle Downey, the former’s shot from the edge of the area drifted wide.
James Novak sent a free kick from distance straight into keeper Lewis Graham’s midriff, but in the 24th minute the visitors missed a gilt edged opportunity.
Scroggins – who was running the show in the midfield – provided a low cross from the right which was scooped over the bar by Connor.
However, seconds later the Railwaymen signalled their intentions further with Scroggins putting them in front.
The slickness of an incisive move caught the home side out as Connor and Chris Emms exchanged quick fire passes which enabled Scroggins to move in, side-step Dryden and fire into the roof of the net.
Novak lashed a half volley over before that man Scroggins was somehow allowed to wander through the Ashington midfield and drive a right footer wide.
Ben Wood blazed over after a Connor cross from the right, then two minutes from the break, Ashington had concerted appeals for a penalty turned down by referee Barry Gordon after believing Novak’s shot had been handled inside the area.
In time added on, a free kick by James Taylor was glanced on by Glen Taylor but Graham moved smartly to thwart Johnson.
The Colliers made the worst possible start to the second half as Shildon doubled their advantage within the opening 57 seconds.
The ball fell to Richardson who fired in a left foot shot from 25 yards which seemed to take an eternity before beating the outstretched hand of Dryden and finding the bottom corner of the net.
Midway through the half a neat passage of play by Ashington saw Glen Taylor’s cross find Oliver whose shot was blocked for a corner before manager Gary Middleton introduced Martin Brittain for Novak.
The substitute immediately swung over the flag kick which found its way back to him and from a second bite of the cherry, his cross to Oliver saw the midfielder’s drive held by Graham.
Scott Blandford cleared from the danger zone to foil Shildon sub Sam Garvie, who was then denied by Dryden pushing the ball away to safety.
Eight minutes from time, another cross by Brittain saw referee Gordon play an excellent advantage which resulted in Marc Walton having an effort blocked and Sam Norris snuffed out from the rebound.
The final action came in the 85th minute when following a centre from the left, Scroggins was thwarted on two occasions by Dryden.
Ashington: Dryden, McGlen, Blandford, Oliver, J Taylor, Christensen, Johnson, K Downey (Norris 80), Walton, G Taylor, Novak (Brittain 65). Subs not used: L Scott, A Downey, Carson.
On Thursday, April 10, Ashington are away to Team Northumbria then face Dunston UTS at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday, April 12, where the kick-off will be 3.07pm as a mark of respect for the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
On Tuesday, April 15, Gary Middleton’s side travel to Tow Law for a quarter-final showdown in the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup.
Meanwhile Ashington Colliers, who operate in the premier division of the Kicks Leisure Northern Alliance League, have announced that their home game against Seaton Delaval Amateurs on Wednesday, April 16, will be staged at Woodhorn Lane with a 7pm kick-off.