MARC Walton left his sick bed to rifle a hat-trick and lead Ashington into the first qualifying round of the FA Cup with a fully merited victory over Marske United on Saturday.
After his two goals had put the Colliers on course for a 3-1 win over Whitley Bay in midweek, Walton – subsequently struck down with a virus – disguised his illness well as he took his tally to six so far this season.
He was also involved in his side’s fourth goal scored by Andrew Johnson.
All of this coming in another vibrant Ashington performance where they knocked the ball around and played some scintillating football in front of a large travelling band of supporters.
Walton will naturally take the headlines for a stunning hat-trick, but it was another slick showing from the Wansbeck side where the game could and should have been effectively over by half-time.
It all began well as the Colliers got their noses in front as early as the third minute courtesy of Walton.
The forward closed down home keeper Scott Allison on the six-yard line and when the stopper applied a poor touch, Johnson took the ball past him.
Allison then upended Johnson with referee Gary McLelland pointing to the spot with Walton stepping up to blast home the penalty.
However, within two minutes, the home side were level with a sizzling strike from David Onions.
The ball was knocked up to Onions who fended off a challenge from Craig Scott then let fly with a blistering right footer from the right hand side of the area which flew across Karl Dryden and into the net via the far post.
Ashington pieced together a great passing move in the ninth minute which ended with Walton lining up a shot only to fire wide.
But the talismanic striker got his angles right in the 16th minute to put his side 2-1 up.
Callum Little did well in the approach work and when he slipped the ball through for Walton, the striker made no mistake despatching a low right footed effort from 16 yards just inside the upright.
Still the action centred on the home goal as Ryan Grier produced a brilliant tackle to halt Johnson before the striker teed up a half volley for himself which was held by Allison.
On the half hour Walton again shot off target, then Danny Brunskill crossed for Christopher McGill to fire past the post.
On the stroke of half-time, Johnson’s precision cross to the far post was headed over by Little, and within seconds of the resumption, Walton had a shot which was deflected and held by Allison.
The keeper was called into action to clutch a diving header from Little before Walton completed his hat-trick in the 51st minute.
Scott’s impressive sorte upfield came to an end when he was checked by Leon Carling and from the resultant free kick, Walton found the top corner with a superb curling effort from 25 yards.
Walton and Johnson were then instrumental in a move which saw Storey tee up a volley for himself, which was taken by Allison, before Johnson finished off a classic move to put his side into a 4-1 lead in the 65th minute.
Paul Antony’s pass to the left was dummied by Walton and when the overlapping Phil Cave drove the ball low and hard into the danger zone, Johnson steaming in through the middle, slid home from eight yards.
Ashington: Dryden, Williams, Cave, Antony, Atkin (Dobby 76 minutes), Scott, Storey, Taylor, Walton, Johnson, Little. Subs not used: Dugdale, Middleton, Bond.
On Saturday, Ashington stage the first of two instalments in a week against West Auckland at Woodhorn Lane.
The Colliers take on last season’s losing FA Carlsberg Vase finalists in an Ebac Northern League encounter then meet them the following weekend in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup.