Ashington FC head coach Ian Skinner will tell his players and staff to enjoy the Christmas Festivities – then switch their focus to the Boxing Day clash against neighbours Morpeth Town at Craik Park (1pm kick-off).
The Highwaymen are flying near the top of the Ebac Northern League’s first division whilst the Colliers - who harboured ambitions of finishing the campaign in the upper bracket but who currently occupy a mid table spot - will go into the game with one victory from their last six outings.
However Skinner said: “It’s a derby so anything can happen. If we can apply ourselves and make sure first and foremost that we work hard then we will be a match for Morpeth. It may sound crazy having lost 2-0 at Penrith on Saturday but if we don’t play too far away from what we have done over in Cumbria, I think we’ll do alright. However we need to take our chances when they come along. We have been guilty of making mistakes which have cost us but at Penrith, what cost us was not putting the ball into the net when we had opportunities to do so.”
He continued: “We missed a couple of one on one situations on Saturday which nine times out of ten you score from and that would have made things far more comfortable for us. I was disappointed to lose but whereas I am usually full of frustration, I’m not because we played relatively well.”
The Colliers will report for training this week when the management team’s prime objective will be to lift the mood in the camp: “We have got to keep them [the players] believing that putting all of the effort in is worthwhile,” added Skinner,
“The players are down because they know themselves that they deserved something from Saturday’s clash so we will be aiming to lift the spirits. What I do know is if we play between now and the end of the season like we did at Penrith, we’ll win or draw more games than we lose.”
Long term injuries to Damien Stevens, Scott Blandford, Ben Richardson, Craig Scott and James Taylor automatically rule them out of the reckoning for the Boxing Day contest whilst Shaun Bell is a doubt and Ben Harmison is suspended: “We’ll have a head count at training,” added Skinner,
“We have asked a lot of Ben Harmison recently and he probably needed a rest anyway – but we will miss him regardless because he is an integral part of what we are trying to do.”