Ashington 3-1 Sunderland RCA
Ashington saw off Sunderland RCA on Tuesday night with a deserved 3-1 victory at Woodhorn Lane.
For the Colliers, it was their first piece of competitive action for three and a half weeks – but during the enforced break due to the wintry and wet weather, Woodhorn Lane boss Steve Bowey has put his squad through rigorous training sessions which certainly paid off as their fitness levels never waned in the closing stages.
The home side had to do things the hard way too. Colin Larkin put the Wearsiders ahead before on-fire striker Damien Stevens scored a brace and Lee McAndrew notched the other against a force-to-be reckoned with RCA side. Despite limited action in the opening period, the 45 minutes elapsed quickly but the second half was a pulsating affair as the Colliers stepped up a gear and played some scintillating football on a pitch which was in immaculate condition following tireless and outstanding work from groundsman Scott Robson.
The first semblance of an opportunity came in the 11th minute when Larkin latched onto a long ball from defence and his cross shot drifted wide of home ‘keeper Conor Grant’s left hand post. However four minutes later, Larkin’s finishing was clinical as he put his side in front. Grant brilliantly blocked a goalbound effort from Michael Charlton but when the rebound fell into the path of Larkin, he blasted home left footed from 12 yards. Ashington’s first meaningful sniff at goal came on the 20 minutes mark when Andrew Cartwright and Kyle Downey linked to set up Stevens whose shot on the turn went over the bar.
But then a turning point arrived when Larkin struck a right footer across Grant which came back into play after thudding against the far upright. Ashington drew level on the half hour following a terrific advantage played by referee Steven Lennon. Tony Stephenson was fouled by Reece Noble inside the RCA half but the match official allowed the advantage and when Luke Salmon crossed low into the area, Cartwright side footed an effort which saw the ball find the net after taking a massive deflection off Stevens.
The Colliers made an explosive start to the second half and came so close after carving out two great chances inside a minute. Ben Christensen found Dale Pearson down the flank and when the forward crossed into the box, Stevens directed a powerful header which smacked against the post. Then on a blistering counter-attack, Stephenson and Stevens worked a quick one-two which ended with a drive by the former drifting inches wide as ‘keeper Keith Finch advanced. However, Ashington went ahead in the 58th minute. Pearson found McAndrew down the flank and after cutting inside, McAndrew’s ground shot from 20 yards slipped through the legs of Finch and into the net.
Three minutes after being introduced as a substitute, Dylan Williamson played a superb ball through for Pearson who was through but a heavy touch allowed Finch to save. In the 71st minute, Stevens claimed his second goal of the night – via the penalty spot – which took his tally to eight in the last four games. Williamson charged through into the box and just as he was about to pull the trigger, was sent tumbling to the ground by James Armstrong.
Referee Lennon pointed to the spot and Stevens sent Finch the wrong way with an effort into the bottom corner. Unfortunately it was the last piece of action for Williamson who tweaked a hamstring and was replaced by Lee Scott. In the closing stages, Ashington had opportunities to increase their lead further but Pearson was twice denied by Finch.
*On Saturday, Ashington are away to Jarrow Roofing (3pm).
Ashington: Grant, Christensen, Salmon, Stephenson (Williamson 64 minutes, L Scott 75 minutes), C Scott, Buchanan, McAndrew (Turnbull 64 minutes), Downey, Stevens, Cartwright, Pearson. Subs not used: Bell, Hornsby.