Ashington head coach praises players' positive response
Ashington FC Head coach Ian Skinner said the positive response he got after setting his players a challenge at half-time had set up their 2-1 victory over Billingham Synthonia on Wednesday night.
The Colliers trailed at the break to a Danny Brunskill goal for the Teessiders before advancing to the second round after second-half strikes from Kyle Downey and Craig Scott.
Skinner said: “I thought we started the game brightly and had a couple of very good chances in the first couple of minutes where we have hit the crossbar through Kyle Downey then Lee McAndrew has had a good shot but just didn’t get enough on it to beat the keeper at his far post.
“We looked positive and then we have conceded a poor goal from a set play.
“In all fairness it was a good ball played in but we should have defended it better.
“I thought we passed the ball relatively but in the first half we didn’t have enough purpose to our possession, it was almost possession for the sake of possession.
“There were times to go forward but we didn’t take them, instead we opted to turn back on ourselves, and I think we need to work on that aspect of our game.
“Our first thought needs to be ‘forward’ and if not to retain the ball then to build attacks.
“The challenge we set to the players at half-time was to be more positive because we needed to drive into the space in front of us.
“We also needed to be better in the final third because I thought we were really lackadaisical at times in the first half through giving the ball away or not taking care of it.
“Players were wanting to play the difficult pass instead of a little give and go.
“However, I think we got what we asked for after the break with a couple of great runs from Lee McAndrew in a wide position.
“Luke Salmon made a few positive darts forward, one of which led to the penalty which got us back into the game.
“Downey has made some positive runs too, and we’ve had some efforts from distance.
“So all in all possession wise I thought we did well.
“Second half we were better and I thought we limited Billingham to very little other than the goal, even though Conor Grant had to made a decent save near the end.
“When we equalised, the confidence returned and we looked comfortable on the ball again and looked like creating chances going forward, which we didn’t do in the first half.”
Skinner was pleased Craig Scott came through the 90 minutes injury free.
“We have resisted bringing Craig back too early as he has been out a long time with a serious injury,” he said.
“But the last couple of weeks he has been getting itchy feet wanting to come back in and we saw tonight as an opportunity.
“James Harmison, who has been excellent the last few games, has dropped out but it was more of a rest for him.
“Craig has lasted 90 plus minutes and has come up with the winner, so it’s happy days.
“He got the ball and somehow hooked it over his shoulder and it has gone into the top corner.
“Thankfully for us it has dropped in and after that I thought we looked comfortable.
“In the closing stages they had a flurry of three or four corners in a row with great delivery, but we defended manfully.”
Skinner also applauded his players after they ‘learned a lesson’.
“Full credit to them because I think they have learnt a little lesson following the South Shields game,” he said.
“At Shields we got a corner in the 90th minute with the score 2-2 and decided to put the ball into the box.
“From the break, the Mariners scored the winner, but tonight we have tried to keep possession in the corner and I was happy.
“We are in the hat for the next round and it was an important game.
“We have already gone out of two national cup competitions and with no disrespect to the two opponents, they were games we should have won.
“Synners are a good side, they have a good squad and will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season for promotion.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but it was a competition we needed to stay in.
“The players responded and it keeps our season alive as there are two trophies we can still aim for.”