IT has been a particularly good week for Andrew Johnson – as well as Ashington CFC.
The midfielder turned forward took his goals tally for the season to 19 with three in the last two matches – a brace against South Shields in midweek followed by a brilliant set piece at Newcastle Benfield on Saturday.
He now hopes boss Gary Middleton will continue to play him in the role of a striker.
“I’m loving it up front and the role gives me freedom to affect the game more,” he said.
“I’m happy being there or would alternatively play in midfield – but I am merely delighted to be in the side.” However, although his new lease of life up top had no influence as he tucked away his latest goal with aplomb, the score which arrived on the hour had a big say on the outcome of the result.
Awarded a free kick 35 yards out down the centre, Johnson stepped up to leave even the home supporters in shock as his venomous right footer rocketed into the roof of the net past static keeper Andrew Grainger.
“The position of the free kick was a bit straight to try and cross it in and was too far out to curl it so I just put my foot through it and smashed it,” said 25-year-old Johnson, a teaching assistant at Ellington First School.
“I caught it sweet and it was on target, but it took so long for the ball to go in.”
On a heavy surface which came through a morning inspection, both sides contributed to an entertaining clash and for the second time inside a few days, Ashington faced opposition who belied their lowly league placing.
In the 18th minute, following a corner on the left by Johnson, Mark O’Dea had a shot cleared off the line by Mark Turnbull.
Play immediately switched to the other end with ex-Colliers striker Stephen Young taking the ball past keeper Karl Dryden but he squandered a great opportunity by hitting the side netting.
Four minutes later, Sam Norris ventured on a run through the middle and looked a certain scorer until his effort was blocked by the advanced Dryden.
The two chances proved significant as the Colliers took the lead in the 25th minute with Glen Taylor scoring his first goal since his recent move from fellow Ebac Northern League club Spennymoor.
Ashington’s former Benfield midfield maestro Paul Antony whipped over a free kick from the right which saw Grainger leave his line to try and claim, but he was beaten in the air by Taylor who planted a firm header into the net from eight yards.
Within 60 seconds Johnson was through one-on-one down the right, but with no support in the middle he was forced to have an effort which was blocked by Grainger. The home stopper parried a low 18 yarder from O’Dea and pounced to smother at the second attempt with Johnson lurking.
The final chance of the half fell to Benfield in time added on with Young heading narrowly over from a corner by Nicky Deverdics.
In the second period, chances were rare.
Johnson’s pile driven scorcher proved to be the exception with Young and Stephen Brown having shots blocked whilst O’Dea fired wide on two occasions for Gary Middleton’s side.
Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, Scott, Antony, Atkin, Grieve, Johnson (Bainbridge 86), Dugdale, Gray (Lough 51), G Taylor (Bell 85), O’Dea. Subs not used: Mellish, Hodgson.
On Saturday, Ashington travel to Cornwall to face Bodmin Town in the fourth round of the FA Carlsberg Vase then visit Hebburn Town on Tuesday, January 22.
On Tuesday at Filtrona Park, Glen Taylor had a hand in both goals as the Colliers had to work hard against basement side South Shields before securing all three points.
Following a goalless first period, Andrew Johnson broke the deadlock, following up to side-foot home in the 47th minute after Taylor’s left foot drive had been pushed out by home keeper James Winter.
Two minutes later, Jonny Wightman’s effort was similarly blocked by Karl Dryden but Stephen Ramsey missed a sitter for the Mariners, firing over.
Then midway through the period, after a move involving Darren Lough and Taylor, Johnson’s low right footer slithered through the hands of Winter and into the back of the net.