It was not their best win of the season, but Ashington’s comprehensive 4-0 drubbing over Dunston was an occasion to savour.
Not that a home win in April should be cause for extra special celebration, just the matter of history repeating itself over the past few seasons at Woodhorn Lane.
The Colliers have now won three and drawn one from the last four contests against the Gateshead-based outfit – a notable achievement against a side who are notoriously difficult to break down.
No small wonder then that manager Gary Middleton and his staff, leg weary players and supporters wore broad and radiant smiles on their faces as the Colliers came out on top against the Blues, who only two seasons ago lifted the FA Carlsberg Vase at Wembley after a 2-0 win over fellow Ebac Northern League side West Auckland – the latter club who will again be playing under the arch against Sholing in this years final on May 10.
But there was so much more to admire about Middleton’s troops than merely the result.
The afternoon had begun in reflective and sombre mood with players, officials and supporters pausing for what was an impeccably observed minute’s silence to remember the Hillsborough tragedy of 25 years ago.
Then following an even opening, it was the home side who began to dominate as within a ten-minute spell, Sam Norris directed an effort straight at keeper Andrew Clark, James Taylor blasted over after a lay-off from Andrew Johnson and Glen Taylor fired a left footer wide with Clark rooted to the spot.
After good build-up play, Kyle Downey had a shot blocked before Glen Taylor was heavily involved, placing a header inches wide then making space for himself but firing over.
Consequently it was nothing more than the Colliers deserved when they took the lead on the half hour with a simply worked goal.
Lance McGlen’s throw-in from the right into the penalty area saw the ball bounce and fall perfectly for Johnson who nipped in to squeeze a header between Clark and the near post to record his 29th goal of the campaign.
Two minutes later, the ex-Ashington stopper made a great save to keep out an effort from Marc Walton, then from a James Taylor cross, a header from Glen Taylor was taken high by Clark.
It was the 40th minute before Dunston created their first serious opportunity when a cross from Lee McAndrew saw Andrew Bulford completely miss his header.
It was also a half which Ashington – playing with the wind on their backs – did not want to end.
And they got the perfect pre-interval tonic in the first minute of time added on for stoppages with Glen Taylor punishing an error by Clark to the full. Given a back pass from Jack Burns, Clark made a hash of his clearance which fell straight at the feet of Taylor who advanced then drove a right footer into the net past the keeper from 22 yards.
The visitors began the second period better and on 49 minutes Michael Dixon had a header cleared off the line by Downey before Daniel Wilson – given a late place in the starting line-up after Stephen Goddard had pulled out during the pre-match warm-up – fired wide.
Ashington withdrew Marc Walton with Lee Scott, a fans’ favourite, replacing him in the 53rd minute.
The sub, who has played in various positions for the side this term, was a straight replacement for Walton and within ten minutes he had delivered a finish which the centre forward would have been proud of to give his side a three goals cushion.
The move itself was neat and slick with Johnson playing the ball inside for Glen Taylor whose deft touch put Scott in the clear in the inside left position and he did the rest with an unerring left foot drive wide of Clark and just inside the far post.
Home keeper Karl Dryden tipped over a cross from McAndrew and a half volley from Bulford was not too far away before the Colliers turned the screw further in the closing stages and fashioned a fourth.
Seconds earlier, sub Scott Blandford, Johnson and Novak had combined to set up Glen Taylor who lashed wide, but in the 90th minute, Novak’s superb through pass released sub Kyle Oliver who advanced before coolly slipping the ball past Clark.
The Colliers travel to face Tow Law on Tuesday night (April 15) in the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup with the winners having the incentive of a home tie against Marske United in the semi-finals.
On Good Friday evening, Ashington bring the curtain down on their league campaign when they entertain Crook Town at Woodhorn Lane.
The game is part of the ground hop programme and supporters should note that kick-off is 6.30pm.
Ashington : Dryden, McGlen, Novak, J Taylor, C Scott, Christensen, Norris (Blandford 81), K Downey (Oliver 68), Walton (L Scott 53), G Taylor, Johnson. Subs not used: A Downey, Brittain.