DOWN and out but certainly not disgraced – Gary Middleton’s Ashington CFC gave their best against Newcastle United’s second string but will sadly not be returning to St James Park for a third year in succession.
In front of a crowd just over the 400 mark, two second half goals by Brad Inman and Michael Richardson took the Magpies through to the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, where they will meet Blyth Spartans.
The home outfit did have chances in the first period but overall the Colliers defended well and were happy to share a 0-0 scoreline at the interval.
There was an early scare for Ashington when Inman burst through after only 80 seconds until he was eventually foiled by Gareth Rees.
Then in the 20th minute it was Inman again who brought a brilliant save out of keeper Karl Dryden when his right foot shot was pushed away to safety.
Ashington’s first chance came four minutes later after Andrew Johnson and Jonny Godsmark linked well to set up an opportunity for Phill Bell, but his header was tame and Ole Soderberg accepted the ball with ease.
Darren Lough – facing his former club – made a great block to stop Philip Airey before in the 33rd minute the Colliers had concerted and vociferous appeals unanswered for what they claimed to be a handball in the Newcastle penalty area.
United took the lead in the 52nd minute when Richardson laid the ball off for Inman who made no mistake with a left foot drive.
On the hour a huge turning point in the game saw Newcastle double their lead.
From a flick on by Bell, Lough’s sweetly struck and goalbound low drive was superbly blocked by Soderberg and when the ball flew up into the air, the Colliers again asked the question for a spot kick for a handball which was refused.
Thirty-seven seconds later Richardson left Dryden rooted to the spot with a vicious left foot volley to make it 2-0.
But Ashington performed well in the last quarter hour and should have at least reduced the arrears in the last five minutes.
Substitute Mark O’Dea reached the by-line and when he cut the ball back, Young missed out and Bell fired straight at Soderberg.
Then only the Newcastle keeper will know how he managed to preserve a clean sheet when Johnson crossed and Bell – on the six yards line – clipped an effort which the keeper somehow saved from point blank range with the ball ballooning over the bar for a corner from which Bell headed just over.
A disappointing result for the Colliers but they more than gave the full-time opposition a run for their money.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Lough, Johnson, Atkin, Rees, Godsmark, Scott (Blandford 70 mins), Young, Bell, Mullen (O’Dea 60 mins). Subs not used: Bainbridge, Harmison, Dunn.