Ashington survive late scare to advance in FA Vase

Ashington striker Ben Harmison. Picture by Gavin Perry.
Ashington striker Ben Harmison. Picture by Gavin Perry.

Ashington completed a unique hat-trick on away soil on Saturday when they knocked Albion Sports out of an FA competition for the third year in a row.

Following back to back successes in the FA Cup in the previous two seasons, the Colliers made progress in the FA Vase at Throstle Nest, but only after a nail jangling final few minutes.

Steve Harmison’s side were 3-0 up by the interval and with two minutes of normal time remaining led 4-1, but they were forced to endure an uncomfortable ending as the home side made a real fist of things by scoring twice in rapid succession.

Ashington started on the front foot and got a boost when Scott Gunn edged them ahead in the ninth minute.

Ben Harmison, who was to play a prominent part throughout, headed a cross from the right by Lee McAndrew into the path of Gunn who, eight yards out and with his back to goal, swivelled sharply and fired wide of keeper Mark Bower.

The Wansbeck outfit continued to dominate and Albion’s best effort came on the half hour when a left footed free kick by Karl Hall drifted wide.

However, five minutes later, keeper Conor Grant preserved his side’s lead after making a terrific stop to his right to deny Hall following another restart.

But in the closing stages of the half, two goals in four minutes put Ashington firmly in the ascendancy.

In the 37th minute, Kyle Downey unleashed a terrific left footer from 30 yards which screamed into the top corner, then after Bower had thwarted Gunn, McAndrew added the third.

The goal owed much to the skill of Ben Harmison who latched onto a stray pass from a defender and cleverly cut inside another home player before setting up McAndrew on the right who lashed wide of Bower.

The home side, fourth in the Toolstation Northern Counties East Premier League with five wins from six matches, came into the game in the second period and reduced the deficit with Omar Habeeb slotting into the far corner after a move from left to right.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, Luke Salmon had a shot pushed for a corner by Bower, then a slick Albion attack saw Danny Facey play a one-two which brought a brilliant block from Grant.

Ashington had introduced new signing David Dormand in the 65th minute and in the 82nd, Ben Harmison claimed his third assist of the afternoon as he released the debutant who, amid appeals from the home side for offside, coolly stroked a right footer wide of Bower.

In the 88th minute when Habeeb added his second, forcing the ball home after a save by Grant, as the Lions showed little in the way of celebration.

But two minutes later when Joe Barden drove low inside the near post to make it 4-3, they raced to get the ball out of the net and back to the centre circle.

With four minutes of stoppage time, it made for a nervy ending, but the Colliers held on and will now travel to face Easington on Saturday, September 24.

On Saturday Ashington are without a game.

Ashington: Grant, Henderson, Salmon, R Bell, Christensen (Sampson 71), Buchanan, S Bell, Downey, Gunn (Dormand 65), B Harmison, McAndrew (Farrell 82). Subs not used: Bulford, Glasper.