Marc Walton scored a hat-trick which took his tally for the season to 39 as Ashington won 4-3 Penrith – 48 hours after winning the Northumberland Senior Cup at St James’ Park.
The striker set himself a target of 40 at the start of the campaign and went into Wednesday’s final match of the season at Norton with only one aim in mind.
There was little evidence to suggest what turned out to be a seven-goal thriller as Walton’s fifth minute opener had been the only score in the first half.
That came about when Glen Taylor got on the end of a pass from Paul Antony and advanced before finding Walton on the right. The forward shrugged off the attentions of a defender before driving a crisp right footer from a tight angle across keeper Jonny Jamieson and just inside the far post.
The Cumbrians – playing their final game of the campaign – went into the contest protecting an 11-match unbeaten run.
On the quarter hour an effort from Richard Faustino had keeper Karl Dryden scampering across his goal before drifting narrowly wide.
Chances were limited before just on the stroke of half-time a 30-yard free kick by Walton was pushed out by Jamieson.
The Colliers made an even better start to the second period than they had the first – with a wonder strike inside 35 seconds from the boot of Antony.
Walton’s brave header saw the ball fall to Antony who struck a venomous right footed lob on the half volley from all of 40 yards which sailed over the head of Jamieson, dipped viciously and ended in the back of the net.
Many visiting supporters missed the goal too as they were finishing their half time refreshment, but it was a top class strike from the midfielder.
Incredibly, Gary Middleton’s men moved into a comfortable 3-0 lead in only the 49th minute.
Mark O’Dea slotted the ball into the area for Antony who skipped past two challenges and laid it off for Walton, who rifled an effort into the bottom corner of the net from 16 yards.
Seven minutes later, the Colliers must have had thoughts of sealing the game.
Antony had stroked wide then Glen Taylor’s powerful effort crashed against the bar, and only the brilliance of Jamieson prevented Johnson scoring from the rebound as the keeper somehow tipped his goalbound header over the top.
Adopting a never-say-die attitude, the Cumbrians never gave up and after Steven Rigg had fired a warning by going close, Kevin Connolly struck over.
Johnson played a neat one-two with Glen Taylor but directed his effort straight at Jamieson, then Johnson’s free kick was parried by the stopper diving to his right.
However, the game took a double twist when Penrith scored twice in the space of three minutes.
Kevin Holliday stroked home the first from inside the box on 70 minutes, then after Holliday’s free kick had rattled the bar, the rebound fell straight into the path of Grant Davidson who smashed home.
After Jamieson had made another outstanding save to push around a Walton free kick bound for the top corner, the striker was not to be denied as he completed his hat-trick 57 seconds later.
Glen Taylor controlled a lofted pass from Matty Grieve then struck a firm effort which Jamieson could not hold with Walton’s razor sharp reflexes seeing him seize on the rebound and drive into the roof of the net from close range.
The game then exploded as Penrith substitute John Jardine – who had only been on the field a mere quarter of an hour and who had already been yellow carded – made a poor challenge on Johnson and was promptly sent off by referee Tony Duffy.
Three minutes from the end, Penrith pulled it back to 4-3.
They broke on the counter attack after blocking a Walton free kick with Connolly shrugging off a challenge from James Taylor before sliding the ball wide of Dryden.
With four minutes of stoppage time, it made for an exciting finale – but Ashington remained firm and were worthy winners on the night.
Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, C Scott, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson (L Scott 85 mins), O’Dea, Walton, G Taylor, Dobby (Godsmark 79 mins).