Andrew Johnson struck his 13th goal of the season to help steer Ashington to a fabulous victory in what was a five-goal thriller against Shildon on Friday.
The Railwaymen went into the contest as league leaders, but on the night not only crashed to their second reverse in the last four outings but were also shunted into the sidings against a rampant Colliers side in full throttle.
Indeed Gary Middleton’s men should have been well ahead by the interval – and in Johnson they had a key player who was simply unplayable.
The victory was very much a team effort but Johnson was at the heart of everything involving the Wansbeck side as an attacking force and was rightly chosen as the Colliers’ man of the match.
Shildon included both new signings from Spennymoor, Lee Kerr and Craig Ruddy, and it was the latter who, although well marshalled, still emerged as the home side’s best player on the night.
Ashington made a great start and after threatening, deservedly nudged ahead in the 11th minute.
With only 75 seconds on the clock a run through the middle by Johnson saw him lay the ball off to Glen Taylor, whose low right footer was easily dealt with at the foot of the post by keeper Keith Finch.
Another terrific burst down the left flank by Johnson should have culminated in the opener as he cut along the by line and pulled the ball back, but Sam Norris fired wide at the near post.
However, when the opener came, it was a beauty.
Awarded a free kick 30 yards out, Johnson’s right foot effort was struck with pace and it found the far corner wide of the outstretched hands of Finch.
Shildon’s first threat came following a cross from the right by Kerr, with Mark Doninger’s looping header being caught by Dryden.
But immediately Johnson produced another lightening burst down the left and when he pulled the ball back, Glen Taylor missed out, hitting the advertising hoardings wide of the goal.
A back header from Darren Richardson was held by Dryden then a great Ashington move involving Johnson and James Taylor came to nothing.
Five minutes into the second half, Ashington doubled their advantage with a classic strike by Kyle Oliver.
Darren Lough won a tackle in his own half with Oliver taking the ball on and advancing before finding Johnson. He played it out wide for Norris who whipped over a low cross which Oliver blasted into the roof of the net.
However, three minutes later Shildon were back in the contest.
Ruddy’s venture across the park resulted in him laying the ball into the path of Lee Paul Scroggins, who whipped home a right footed effort from 25 yards, wide of Dryden.
Johnson continued to pull the strings and run Shildon ragged, and on the hour when he crossed, Glen Taylor’s shot was directed straight at Finch.
In the 73rd minute, Ashington restored their two-goal advantage with Johnson taking his season’s tally to 13.
James Taylor, Johnson and Norris linked superbly in a scintillating move, and when the latter beat his marker then delivered a cross, Johnson finished with aplomb, hooking an explosive right footed volley into the net from eight yards, which left Finch helpless.
Glen Taylor and Billy Greulich-Smith went close for their respective sides before a 30 yards free kick by Scroggins produced a great save by Dryden, diving to his right.
Within the space of 60 seconds, the Colliers squandered an opportunity to go 4-1 up – and from the counter, Shildon closed the gap to 3-2.
Glen Taylor and Johnson combined to set up Oliver who was foiled by Finch, then Ruddy and substitute John Brackstone were involved in a move before Greulich-Smith headed the ball back to Mark Hudson. Shildon’s skipper teed himself up then struck a half volley wide of Dryden from 18 yards.
That goal came in the 87th minute and the Colliers were then forced to defend doggedly from a sustained period of pressure.
Ruddy had a weak shot cleared by Oliver and Darren Craddock lobbed over the final chance – but the Colliers claimed all three points – and deservedly so.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to Dunston UTS.
Ashington: Dryden, Lee Scott, Oliver, J Taylor, C Scott, Christensen, Norris (Carson 74 minutes), Downey (Blandford 88 minutes), Johnson, G Taylor, Lough. Subs not used: Walton, Briggs, Race.
In midweek, Ashington went down 2-1 to Billingham Synthonia with the Teessiders snatching all three points with a 93rd minute headed winner from Matthew Osmond.
David Carson had fired the Colliers ahead early in the second period before Kris Hughes scored a stunning equaliser midway through the half.