A MAGNIFICENT performance by Ashington saw them come from behind before deservedly winning what was a pulsating derby match against Whitley Bay at Hillheads on Tuesday night.
Right from the first whistle the Colliers took the game to their hosts, but after dominating the opening 25 minutes they suddenly found themselves behind to a wonder goal from Lee Kerr.
But shortly before half-time they were back on level terms when Marc Walton equalised with a goal of the season contender.
After the break, Gary Middleton’s side played some sensational attacking football and not only went into a 3-1 lead through Walton and substitute Callum Little, but they could have gone on to win by a bigger margin.
And all of this after the Wansbeck side picked up two injuries on the night with former Bay striker Phill Bell being carried off with an ankle problem in the first period then Josh Gray being forced to leave the field early in the second half with a knock on his foot.
Both players were taken to hospital to get the injuries checked out.
The action was intense throughout with the Colliers – through Walton – almost making a dream start.
Inside the opening minute the centre forward got possession and let fly with a vicious 20 yarder which was tipped over by Kyle Hayes at the last moment.
Ashington then forced four successive corners and from the last, a ball played in by Louis Storey saw Gray’s header pushed to safety by Hayes.
Bell had a shot on the turn blocked before Bay had their first effort in the 13th minute when a shot by Paul Robinson was parried by Karl Dryden, then a deflected effort by Paul Chow was held by the visiting keeper.
Ashington kept forcing the pace with substitute Gareth Bainbridge and Gray both firing wide of the upright.
But the game changed in one fell swoop through the sheer brilliance of Kerr as he put the Seahorses ahead in the 34th minute.
Craig Scott was penalised for a handball 20 yards out and Kerr stepped up to give Dryden no chance with a right footer struck with pace which dipped and flew into the net.
Ashington had paid the penalty for not scoring when they were firmly in the driving seat, and Kerr almost doubled the tally four minutes later with a near identical strike – on this occasion from 25 yards – which went narrowly over the bar.
However, the Colliers got back on level terms three minutes before the break with a breathtaking equaliser right out of the top drawer from their talismanic striker Walton.
There appeared to be no danger for Bay when skipper Liam Atkin knocked a long ball down the right flank to Walton, but the number nine caught everyone unawares as he turned a defender just outside the area and struck a venomous right footed half volley which screamed past Hayes and nestled inside the far corner.
After the break, Ashington again got the bit between their teeth to have Whitley on the rack.
And in the 55th minute the visitors went 2-1 up through Walton.
The approach play was excellent and when Bainbridge squared the ball across, Walton’s finish was sublime, as he stroked a right footer wide of Hayes.
Substitute Little was blocked by Daryll Donnelly and Bainbridge’s hooked right foot effort thudded against the underside of the bar as the Colliers mounted concerted pressure.
It came as no surprise when the impressive Little increased the lead in the 71st minute.
Only seconds earlier Atkin had joined the attack, and when he found Storey the midfielder fired wide but when Phil Cave slipped the ball inside the area to Little and he applied a cool finish.
Both sides picked up three yellow cards on the night but the contest was a great advert for non league football – and was played on a pitch in pristine condition.
Whitley Bay: Hayes, Palmer, Fawcett, Reid, Donnelly, Scroggins, Moore (Burns 74 mins), Anzevui (Robertson 65 mins), Kerr, Chow, Robinson (Chambers 74 mins). subs not used: C Smith, Rowe.
Ashington: Dryden, Williams, Cave, Antony, Atkin, Scott, Storey, Taylor, Walton, Bell (Bainbridge 19 mins), Gray (Little 51 mins). sub not used: Dobby