Ashington end year on winning note
Ashington 2Whickham 0Ashington came into the game looking for a break of luck having seen a recent upturn in performance not yield the points that they deserved, writes Gary Bell.
Manager Ian Skinner made four changes from the side that faced Whitley Bay before the Christmas break with Owen Gourlay, Callum Johnston, Dylan Williamson and Brandon Slater all starting in place of James Harmison, Lee Scott, Stephen Gibson and Marcus Giles (who has now left the club).
The Colliers got off to a dream start going 1-0 up in the first minute of the game. David Edwards was strong in midfield winning the ball before playing a through ball into the Whickham half for Callum Johnston to run onto. He drew the Whickham left back to him before playing in Dylan Williamson on the right and the Ashington striker made no mistake cutting into the box before placing a right footed strike beyond the dive of Adam Bartlett and into the bottom corner at the near post.
The home side were definitely up for this game and were unlucky not to double their lead on four minutes when the pace of Dylan Williamson took him clear down the right. He cut the ball back to Ben Sampson standing on the penalty spot who struck a low first time shot which Bartlett did well to get a hand to though he could only parry it out to Brandon Slater standing in the six yard box for what looked like a tap in. Remarkably though the Whickham keeper managed to recover to get across to Slater’s shot and push it around the post.
Ashington were dominant in the opening half hour but found Bartlett in fine form. Johnston saw the visitors’ keeper hold a low effort well on 15 minutes and when Slater danced along the touch line to feed Sampson close in the Whickham goalie again thwarted the Colliers midfielder with a breathtaking stop. On 31 minutes Slater looked to have broken Bartlett’s luck when a free kick from 25 yards was perfectly struck but the keeper again flew through the air to push the effort wide of the goal.
On 33 minutes Whickham recorded their first effort on goal when a long ball into the box was headed clear by Owen Gourlay but fell to Tomas Howard on the edge of the box but his first time strike went inches wide of the post.
With half time beckoning Edwards played another pinpoint through ball which Johnston latched onto and raced away from the defence. He curled an effort around the advancing Bartlett, this time giving the keeper no chance, only to see his effort strike the outside of the upright and out for a goal kick. The half time whistle sounded on a thoroughly dominant first half performance by the home side though the nagging concern was whether only being one goal up for all the dominance would come back to haunt them.
Ashington began the second half where they had left off on the front foot. Some neat interplay between Johnston and Ben Gaffney saw the latter put a cross which Slater sliding in at the back post missed by inches and Slater was then to be denied when he turned well in the box but his effort was held by Bartlett.
Ashington finally got the breakthrough that their dominance deserved on 69 minutes when Williamson sent Johnston into the box and the young forward showed great composure to cut inside the two defenders who were tracking him to curl a right footed effort beyond Bartlett and into the net.
Whickham tried to rally and a through ball found ex-Collier Lee McAndrew out wide. He looked to be through on goal but great tracking back by Johnson forced him wide and his shot was saved comfortably by Adam McHugh, the Ashington keeper.
With 5 minutes remaining it looked like Ashington had grabbed a third goal when a cross from the left by Gaffney was met with a solid header from Johnston. Bartlett got a hand to the ball to push it away but it looked to be well over the line but the officials failed to agree and waved play on.
A minute later Whickham saw their best chance of the game when a lofted through ball saw Ben Harmison one-on-one with Curtis Coppen. A weaving run from Harmison saw Coppen loose his footing on the wet ground and the striker was through on goal but McHugh raced from his goal to narrow the angle and got down well to save his effort low down.
The final whistle blew on an excellent Colliers performance with the home side securing a much needed three points from a dominant display. The 197 crowd gave the team a standing ovation off the field to celebrate the well deserved victory.