Dunston UTS 3-5 Ashington
A barnstorming 45 minutes from Ashington saw them emerge 5-3 victors against Dunston UTS on Tuesday night in what was a pulsating game.
Twice behind – the second occasion coming in stoppage time in the first half – the Colliers came out a different outfit after the break, turning in an excellent display.
However, after going 3-2 ahead, they had the wind taken out of their sails with only eight minutes of normal time remaining when Dunston forward Mark Fitzpatrick levelled with a terrific strike. But Steve Bowey’s side hit back immediately to regain the lead through Luke Salmon before substitute David Edwards added a fifth.
The match – quickly rearranged after falling foul to a frozen pitch on Saturday – had just about everything including Washington-based referee Terry Fletcher playing a brilliant advantage early in the second half which culminated in a second equaliser for Ashington. Yet the first period - on what proved to be a sticky and difficult surface – whilst always interesting, contained few chances.
That said and as Ashington began brightly, Dylan Williamson – making his first full start in black & white colours after being sidelined for almost two years – ought to have given his side a dream beginning when he found himself clean through with only home ‘keeper Niall Harrison to beat but side footed his effort over the bar.
Two minutes later Luke Salmon – handed a new role in midfield – fed Lee McAndrew whose cross was blocked. Dunston’s first attempt at goal came on the quarter hour through Fitzpatrick but his shot from 22 yards was fielded by ‘keeper Conor Grant.
The home side edged ahead on the half hour when the unmarked Daniel Halliday headed in off the bar at the far post after a cross from the right. Jake Stafford went close following a quickly taken free kick, his effort going wide of Grant’s left hand post before Ashington drew level three minutes before the break. Shaun Henderson threaded a pass through for Tom White who was upended inside the area and after Mr Fletcher had pointed to the spot, Tony Stephenson stepped up to place the penalty into the top corner.
On 45 minutes, a free kick by Fitzpatrick took a deflection which forced Grant to palm away to his left then Dunston regained the lead in time added on after forcing a corner on the right. Ashington were punished for poor defending as Halliday claimed his second, ramming the ball in from close range. For the start of the second half, Bowey introduced Damien Stevens and Ben Christensen, withdrawing Stephenson and Williamson – and the double move paid rich dividends. Christensen slotted in at full back with Shaun Henderson moving forward into a midfield role – whilst Stevens was to be a constant threat to the Dunston back line.
Indeed his first contribution came six minutes in when he was fouled on the right touchline. The assistant flagged for the infringement but with McAndrew making great strides to get to the loose ball, referee Fletcher waved play on and when McAndrew crossed, Salmon - arriving at the back post - blasted in. Two minutes later, Halliday produced a great ball from the left which only required a touch then Christensen found McAndrew down the right and from his cross, a scissors kick by Salmon went over.
Dominant Ashington went close on the hour when Kyle Downey bisected the Dunston defence but although Stevens curled the ball wide of the advancing Harrison, it shaved the post and went wide. In the 72nd minute, Halliday came close to completing his hat-trick with a header which clipped the outside of the woodwork before a rip roaring finale unfolded. Ex Dunston winger McAndrew was causing problems down the flank and after another raid on the right, he pulled the ball back but Stevens scooped it over the bar from ten yards.
However, it was Stevens who put the Colliers 3-2 ahead in the 80th minute. Henderson and Salmon combined to play the ball through for Stevens who with unerring accuracy, calmly side footed wide of Harrison and inside the far post. Incredibly, only two minutes later, Fitzpatrick also produced a top class finish to level with a left footer into the top corner from the right hand side of the area.
But Ashington’s riposte was to go nap with two super strikes in five minutes from Salmon and sub Edwards. Jay Hornsby supplied the pass which released Salmon, who charged through and stroked the ball wide of Harrison then after Stevens had lobbed narrowly over, Salmon found Edwards who again applied a sublime finish, curling a right footer into the bottom corner. *On Saturday, Ashington are at home to Newton Aycliffe (3pm).
Ashington: Grant, Henderson, Hornsby, Downey (Edwards 85 minutes), Scott, Buchanan, McAndrew, White, Stephenson (Stevens 46 minutes), Salmon, Williamson (Christensen 46 minutes). Subs not used: Johnston, Bowey.