Ashington CFC manager Gary Middleton admitted after his outfit had secured a 3-2 victory over Shildon on Friday night that he was praying towards the end for his side not to concede an equaliser.
Speaking within minutes of the win over the Railwaymen at Dean Street, the Woodhorn Lane boss said: “I was thrilled to bits to hear the final whistle.
“I just prayed the last few minutes it was not going to be a repeat of Tuesday night when we lost to an injury time goal against Billingham Synthonia, because we haven’t just dug in tonight, we’ve played a really good game of football with good quality on the counter attack and a real sort of desire to defend against a really good team.
“I have been coming down here for more than 20 years and this was as good a result as a player or manager that I have had.
“Shildon are a top, top team, a side full of top Northern League players,- and one who before the game were at the head of the division, so that’s why I want to give my lads every single plaudit and pat on the back.”
The boss – who added that he would cherish his weekend – continued: “We have got a free midweek and I’m pleased because apart from a couple of knocks there are some tired legs as the lads have worked so hard.”
Middleton and his assistant Perry Briggs changed the formation of the side.
He said: “The system we played tonight gives us a nice dilemma. I was hoping it wouldn’t backfire on us because people would then have asked questions, but it worked really well.”
The boss spoke of his players as a collective unit.
“Andrew Johnson was outstanding and they could not live with him, but where do you stop because I could go through the whole squad.
“Perry and myself had a chat about the way Shildon play and they had some areas of concern which we needed to address, so that was the thinking behind the team that we set up, which was different to that of late.
“We wanted to be a bit more solid down their right flank and I knew for a fact we would have to be workmanlike to win the game and that was our thoughts behind playing Andrew Johnson where we did.”
Middleton was happy with the first period but thought his side ought to have been more than one goal ahead.
“I thought we started off terrific and deservedly took the lead,” he said.
“I don’t think Karl Dryden our goalkeeper had a save to make in the first half.
“We were 1-0 up at half-time and it could have been two or three after two great little pull backs from Johnson.
“We were more than happy at the interval but were always aware that they were going to have lots of possession so we had to work collectively as a unit.
“We said to the lads at half-time that if Shildon were to get back into it, the way we were playing we would get chances – and it worked out like that.”
Middleton drooled about the quality of his sides goals.
“After a great free kick from Andrew Johnson had given us the lead, what a fantastic move for the second goal,” he said.
“Kyle Oliver has intercepted the ball on the edge of our box then after a couple of passes followed by a cross from Sam Norris, it led to a superb counter attacking goal.
“It was a tremendous effort from Oliver, someone who started the move and has got on the end of it to finish it off.
“Unfortunately Shildon have lots of good quality in their team and they struck back straight away, which we obviously didn’t want to happen.
“After going two up we wanted to try and get through the next ten minutes, but it didn’t turn out that way – then we have scored another fantastic goal.
“Again it was good interlinked play and passing, a great cross from Norris and a superb finish by Johnson.”
Middleton was hoping his side would see out the remainder of the game.
“They threw everything at us for the next ten minutes and we have defended with our lives,” he said.
“I was concerned when it went to 3-2 because we deserved to win the game and had had our hearts ripped out at Billingham Synthonia in similar circumstances.”