Ashington head coach full of praise for players after win at Marske

Ashington head coach Ian Skinner could not lavish enough praise on his side after they had recorded a 2-1 victory over defending league champions Marske United on Thursday night.

Two second goals from Damien Stevens secured the Colliers the three points, depaite a late consolation from the home side.

Skinner said: “First half Marske started far, far better than us and were much stronger.

“They were quick and created a few good openings, although our keeper Conor Grant hasn’t really been tested because of some great last ditch defending, in particular by Matty Grieve and Ryan Bell, and we have hung in there and worked hard.

“We were very sluggish and looked like a team who had played 48 hours earlier with ten men and who put an awful lot of effort into the clash with North Shields.

“I think that resulted in us being forced to make a couple of changes.

“Paul Dunn slotted in at left back after Jake Trodd got a nasty injury to his hand, and James Harmison has replaced Ryan Bell, who trying to break out from defence with the ball has over stretched in the opposition half and pulled his groin.”

But Skinner was far happier with the second half display.

He added: “We said at half-time that we could only improve – and our performance was better.

“We changed the shape a little bit towards the end of the first half and we bore the fruits of it.

“Damien Stevens going through the middle alongside Ben [Harmison] caused them all sorts of problems with his pace, and I don’t think there are too many in this league quicker than him. He also scored two great goals.

“For the first, the centre back and Ben [Harmison] have gone up for the ball and you expect one of the two to win it. They have both missed it and it has dropped for Stevens, and I was pleased for him that he scored because he had just missed a chance minutes earlier.

“His second goal was a bit special. The ball got caught under his feet a little bit but he has managed to bend it up and over and dip it under the bar.”

He added: “We made some good decisions at times to keep the ball and play the situation.

“We took our time, but as is always the case with an Ashington side, we decided we wanted to make things interesting in the closing stages and conceded, which was a little blot on the copybook.

“We had looked pretty solid all evening and I don’t recall Conor Grant having to make a full stretch save throughout the whole game.

“Overall I think Marske will be disappointed that they have lost the game, but football is all about taking chances and Stevens has taken two great opportunities for us.

“Our lads battled well and I cannot praise them enough for their work rate and effort – it was a great win.”

Skinner also heaped complimentary words on James Harmison and Paul Dunn.

“We had a really difficult conversation with James and Paul beforehand telling them they were not in the starting line-up,” he said.

“However, it was great to see them both get onto the pitch and respond in the manner which I knew they would.

“They are two great lads and they have put the disappointment of not starting behind them and turned in two superb performances which have helped the rest – who were also superb – to come away with a victory.