Stockton Town 3-3 Ashington
A fabulous late strike from Stockton Town’s Nathan Mulligan denied Ashington their first win in 2018 and also ensured that the points were shared in a six goal thriller played on the artificial 3G surface at the Bishopton Road West ground on Saturday, writes Brian Bennett.
A draw was a fair reflection of the game – but it was nevertheless a huge disappointment for the Colliers who trudged off after the final whistle having led on three occasions, especially as Dale Pearson’s effort which put them 3-2 ahead, came with only ten minutes remaining.
Damien Stevens grabbed a brace to take his tally of goals for the season to nine but Steve Bowey’s side were pegged back by a side who netted through Christopher Stockton, Jamie Owens and Mulligan.
In Kevin Hayes and Stockton, the home side – who are through to the quarter finals of the Buildbase FA Vase – had two players who posed problems with their pace and skill. The game was only four minutes old when the latter provided evidence as he beat the offside trap to scamper down the flank and when he crossed, Owens was denied by a superb tackle inside the six yards box by skipper Wayne Buchanan.
Both sides continued to play football and indeed it was the 11th minute before referee Helen Conley blew her whistle for the first free kick of the afternoon. Three minutes later, Stevens opened the scoring. Luke Salmon found Jake Turnbull and the ex Heaton Stannington midfielder fired in a shot which cannoned off a home defender to Stevens who cut inside before side footing wide of ‘keeper Liam Jordan. Shortly afterwards, the lead could have been doubled as a punch out by Jordan fell to Pearson whose full blooded volley was blocked in the centre of the goal.
At the other end, Ben Christensen made a handful of vital challenges but could do nothing to prevent the equaliser which arrived in the 25th minute. The ball was played down the left to Stockton whose drive screamed into the top corner of the net giving ‘keeper Conor Grant no chance.
Max Craggs went close with an effort which curled inches over before the Colliers regained the lead in the final minute of the half. Player/manager Bowey was the provider of a through ball which led to a misunderstanding in the home defence and allowed the lurking Stevens to sneak in and lob into the net. However, from the first whistle of the second period, Stockton came out with fire in their bellies and they duly levelled six minutes in when Hayes crossed from the right for Owens who planted a header inside the upright.
Ashington retaliated with Pearson, Turnbull and Bowey involved in a move which ended with Salmon driving narrowly over. Shortly after being introduced as a substitute, Sonni Coleman had a great opportunity but headed over then a free kick from 25 yards by Kyle Downey was pushed around for a corner by Jordan. Buchanan was not far away with a header then at the other end, an effort from distance by Mulligan drifted just wide.
In the 81st minute, the Colliers went 3-2 up when Pearson accelerated past his marker down the flank before unleashing a drive which flew into the top corner of the net past a bewildered Jordan. In an exciting finale, substitute Dylan Williamson looked set to make it 4-2 until he was thwarted by an excellent tackle by Thomas Coulthard then when play switched, Stockton skewed wide.
In the 89th minute an Ashington move petered out with Jordan collecting and after a break down the left, the home side built patiently with the ball being played sideways to Mulligan who smashed a right footed power drive from 22 yards into the roof of the net past a helpless Grant.
*Ashington are away to Ryhope CW on Tuesday [February 13] before the Colliers take on neighbours Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday [3pm].