ON the balance of play a point apiece was a fair result for Ashington CFC and Norton and Stockton Ancients in an opening match played in sultry conditions on Teesside on Saturday.
But from Norton’s point of view it was not so much a case of hail the supersub Callum Brown, who struck a 75th minute equaliser, it was more hail keeper James Provett whose double save in the dying seconds from Jonny Godsmark and Andrew Johnson earned his side a share of the spoils.
Ashington skipper Chris Scott swept the ball into the area which left Godsmark with only Provett to beat, but his shot was blocked by the stopper who then reacted to save the follow up effort from Johnson.
Station Road has traditionally been a happy hunting ground ove the years for the Wansbeck outfit – but it took them a while to come into proceedings in the first half on Saturday.
The Teessiders, who administered a 1-0 defeat on Gary Middleton’s side in the opening game last season at Woodhorn Lane, looked lively in the early stages with Karl Richards going close with one left footed effort, then being more accurate with a second in the eighth minute which forced keeper Karl Dryden to dive to his right and palm the ball away to safety.
Ashington’s first real threat came five minutes later from a long searching through ball by Craig Scott which was just too long for joint strikers Stephen Young and Godsmark.
Seconds later, a similar pass from Andy Dugdale almost opened the door with keeper Provett forced to head clear with Godsmark ready to pounce.
On the quarter hour Shaun Clarke produced a neat turn on the left but his cross was cleared by a rock solid looking defence, and it was from another long pass from Craig Scott that Ashington came close.
Godsmark showed excellent control on the ball and with Darren Lough giving him an option by making an overlap down the left, Godsmark chose to turn inside and fire a right footer from 25 yards which was finger tipped around the post by Provett.
Seconds later, a deep free kick by Chris Scott was met on the volley by Lough but his cross was cleared for a corner by home skipper Steve Baker.
The flag kick was significant as it led to the opener with Chris Scott’s inswinger on the left curling into the middle of the goal.
And with their best move of the period, the Colliers could have added a second on the half hour mark.
Godsmark, Lough, Dugdale and James Taylor were all involved in the slick build up which ended with Taylor’s cross being headed well over by Johnson.
Ashington’s distribution from the back was a feature, and Matthew Grieve’s long pass was only millimetres away from finding Godsmark with Provett collecting.
Early in the second period, a quickly taken free kick found Andrews who turned and fired a left foot shot wide from 16 yards, then a drive from Richards was well saved by Dryden.
New defender Craig Scott made another excellent challenge inside the area on Nathan Mulligan before Norton got back on terms in the 75th minute with a well worked goal finished by substitute Brown.
Both sides went for the win in the closing stages with the respective managers introducing strikers, but it was the Colliers who could, and should, have prospered.
Two minutes after coming on, Gareth Bainbridge missed a glorious opening, side-footing a Godsmark cross wide before Provett denied both Godsmark and Johnson.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Lough, Rees, Grieve, Craig Scott (Deagle 80 minutes), Chris Scott, Dugdale, Young (Bainbridge 87 minutes), Johnson, Godsmark. Subs not used: Race, Harmison, Buzzeo.
On Saturday Ashington are on the road to Wembley as they travel to Ryton & Crawcrook Albion in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup.
In the event of the game ending in a draw, the replay would take place at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday, August 23, at 7.30pm, and take precedence over the Colliers’ derby against Whitley Bay at Hillheads scheduled for the same night.