Ashington coach Skinner sets squad a top eight target
Ashington FC head coach Ian Skinner has set the playing squad a bristling stiff test over the next two months.
As the Colliers begin a 12-match run-in to the end of the season with a midweek trip to Guisborough, the 40-year-old still believes a top eight finish is possible.
Stakeford-based Skinner said he would be delighted if the challenge develops into a close shave too.
For he has promised to take a razor and remove his beard - and at the same time would ask the squad to make a donation to charity.
“To reach eighth place is a big ask,” he said.
“But we have got to keep the players motivated on task and for them to have a target to aim for.
“I’ll be happy for the beard to come off, I’d suggest the hair on my head but it is receding too far, so long hair is a disguise.”
Ashington-born Skinner, a football development officer for the Northumberland Football Association, added: “We ended our recent bad run with a good comeback win over Sunderland RCA, but in terms of momentum, we are being hindered by a stop-start fixture list with the away game at Guisborough being our first for over a fortnight.”
Saturday, February 25, sees the Colliers take on Ebac Northern League leaders North Shields at Woodhorn Lane with Skinner looking for his side to have a change in fortunes.
“The Robins have turned into a bit of a bogey side for us,” he said.
“Apart from our league clashes, we have played them several times in cup competitions and our record is not good, so we need to change that.
“However, we tend to perform OK against the top sides.
“We led for a long period of the game against Morpeth before being hit by a late leveller, then pushed South Shields all the way before conceding an injury time winner, and more recently we were involved in a tight game against Shildon, losing 1-0.
“We know it will be tough against North Shields, but nevertheless we’ll be looking for a positive result.”
After making his comeback in the 3-2 victory against RCA following an ankle injury, midfielder Ben Richardson has had no reaction and will be available for selection to face his former club on Saturday.
However, central defender Wayne Buchanan is suspended, Ben Christensen and Shaun Bell are both unavailable and there are injury concerns surrounding James Harmison and Ryan Bell.
Without a fixture last weekend, Ashington played Whickham in a friendly and won 5-0 with goals from Andrew Bulford (2), Ryan McGorrigan (2) and Dale Pearson.
Skinner paid tribute to the second division outfit: “It was a good exercise from both teams point of view, although Whickham had a number of players who were unavailable, it gave them the opportunity to blood some of their younger lads.
“I reckon you get more out of players by arranging a friendly than training because footballers tend to be great creatures of habit and it keeps their schedule and rhythm the same.”
Meanwhile two alterations have been made to Ashington’s fixture list.
The away game against West Allotment Celtic, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 4, has been brought forward to the Friday night, March 3, whilst the home game versus South Shields has been put back due to the Mariners’ FA Vase exploits and will now take place on the Tuesday night after Easter, April 18.