WHITLEY Bay’s former Ashington midfielder Chris Fawcett came back to haunt his old club – on a day when the Colliers were still looking to put their FA Carlsberg Vase nightmare behind them.
The embers still smouldering from an inglorious exit in Cornwall against Bodmin Town, Gary Middleton’s side – presumably boosted by a win at Billingham Town in midweek – still appeared to be in a state of shock against their local rivals who were on a similar path having bowed out of the same competition at the same time at Brantham.
The Wansbeck side slightly edged an opening half and got a lift in the closing stages when Glen Taylor capitalised on a couple of errors.
But whereas the Seahorses improved after the break, so Ashington’s performance deteriorated, and after Fawcett had levelled, he had a hand in what proved to be the winning striker – netted by Ash Davis – with quarter of an hour remaining.
Clashes between the two sides are usually pulsating – like in August when Ashington won 3-1 at Hillheads – but Saturday’s contest at Woodhorn Lane was a low key affair.
Supporters had to brave chilly conditions and a rather drab encounter hardly instilled them with any degree of warmth.
The opening was tentative with an ambitious drive from Lee Kerr in the fifth minute going wide, but Andrew Dugdale – another playing against his former side – came within inches of giving the Colliers the lead shortly afterwards with a low effort from 20 yards which left keeper Kyle Hayes flat-footed.
After Andrew Johnson had driven first time into the side-netting, Glen Taylor looked threatening until last man Craig Smith did well to thwart him, then Paul Antony was given space but was off target with another angled shot.
Kerr’s 20 yarder drifted wide before Hayes clutched at the second attempt after Glen Taylor had teed the ball up for himself.
There was little in the way of excitement for the 328 strong crowd as the match struggled to get any momentum and a.
After a cross by Paul Robinson had been glanced wide by Paul Chow, Glen Taylor netted but was ruled offside.
Five minutes before the break, Dugdale found Johnson whose cross was laid back by Glen Taylor to James Taylor, whose goal bound half volley was beaten out by Hayes.
However, in the final minute, the Colliers got their noses in front.
James Novak’s crossfield ball was seized on by Glen Taylor who exchanged a one-two with Phill Bell. Even then it looked as if the chance had gone begging but Bradley Brooking only got a nick on the ball which allowed Taylor the opportunity to steer wide of Hayes and into the far corner of the net.
The goalscorer then met a deep corner from the right by Johnson to direct a header which was taken by Hayes before the whistle sounded for the interval.
Whitley started the second period looking a much more lively outfit and LeePaul Scroggins was only denied the equaliser on 49 minutes by the brilliance of Dryden.
Liam Atkin’s clearing header fell straight into the path of Scroggins whose venomous strike from 25 yards was heading for the top corner until Dryden dived full stretch to his right to palm away. It was a top shot and a top save which was out of context with the game.
Five minutes later another effort from distance by Novak brought Dryden into action again as he pushed the ball away.
However, Ashington finally cracked in the 55th minute when Whitley’s spell of sustained pressure resulted in an equaliser – from Fawcett.
The midfielder latched onto a driven cross from the right by Kerr to steady himself and let fly with a left footer from the edge of the area which gave Dryden no chance.
Ashington responded in the next minute with Hayes clutching a header from Craig Scott following a corner by Johnson, then Robinson slotted through for Davis who looked to be in with a good shout until Atkin out-muscled him and the danger was averted.
After Kerr had gone close with a drive the game became subdued – until Whitley found what proved to be a winner in the 76th minute with Davis claiming his 12th goal of the campaign.
Ashington again lost possession with Chow – who had gone into the back four with Craig Smith off through injury – finding Fawcett who in turn slotted the ball through for Davis in the inside left position. Davis shrugged off a challenge and took a good touch before side-stepping Dryden and finishing well.
Scott had a shot blocked but Ashington were caught on the counter on a couple of occasions as they went in search of an equaliser with James Taylor somehow – and quite brilliantly – stifling Whitley one handed in a break which saw the home defender faced with four attackers.
Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, Scott, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson, Dugdale (Hodgson 79 mins), Bell (Godsmark 72 mins), G Taylor, O’Dea. Subs not used: Mellish, Dobby.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Brooking (Watson 53 mins), Novak, McFarlane, C Smith (Fairley 72 mins), Scroggins, Kerr, Fawcett, Davis, Chow, Robinson (Pounder 83 mins). Subs not used: B Smith, Rowe.
On Saturday the Colliers are away to West Auckland (3pm).