THREE incidents stood out in Ashington CFC’s 2-0 win at Billingham Synthonia on Saturday.
The first saw Ashington awarded a penalty with substitute Jamie Clarke coming onto the field and netting the spot kick with his first touch.
The second was a howler from home keeper Joshua Moody whose misplaced kick fell straight to Clarke who steered the ball into the empty net.
And the third was the mere fact that it took Sunderland-based referee Warren Broadbent 22 minutes to blow his whistle for the first foul of the game.
The latter may have indicated that the contest was between two sides who wanted to play pure football – but action wise, there was little to enthuse about during a laborious first 45 minutes.
Yet the game had began brightly enough.
With only 19 seconds gone, Andrew Johnson slotted the ball through for Johnny Wightman whose shot was well saved by Moody diving low to his left.
Billingham hit back and after Danny Earl had advanced down the left, he laid the ball off for Kieran Edwards who curled an effort wide of Karl Dryden’s left hand post.
The midfielder was more accurate on the quarter hour after cutting inside two players but his shot was taken at the foot of the post by Dryden.
In the 25th minute, a deep free kick by Dean Deagle found Craig Scott at the back post whose first time volley was kept out by Moody.
On the counter attack from Ashington’s corner, Synners broke with Earl’s effort shaving the far post.
As half-time approached, the Colliers thought they had broken the deadlock.
Stephen Young’s effort was pushed around by Moody and from the resultant corner on the right by Deagle, Scott’s header hit the underside of the bar and bounced down but Ashington’s claims that the ball had crossed the line went unheeded.
Seven minutes into the second half, Johnson advanced into the box and after a terrific piece of skill which left David Abel bemused, was brought down by the defender with referee Broadbent pointing to the spot.
Regular penalty taker Clarke was on the touchline ready to be introduced and promptly came on to replace Young before stepping forward and sending Moody the wrong way to give his side the lead.
Johnson came close to doubling the advantage when he met a cross from substitute Chris Fawcett and directed an effort which was destined for the corner until Curtis Collantine headed off the line.
However, home stopper Moody, who had kept his side in the game during the first period, turned villain midway through the half.
Positioned on the left hand side of the penalty area, Moody’s clearance fell straight to Clarke who took one touch then hammered the ball into the net from 12 yards out.
With quarter of an hour remaining, Abel’s header – like Scott’s earlier – hit the bar and bounced down to be cleared then Earl missed a glorious opening.
But nine minutes from time, Ashington – and substitute Jonny Godsmark – ought to have put the game out of sight.
Another probing run by Johnson saw him set up Godsmark who had a great chance but fired wide.
Ashington: Dryden, Buzzeo, Scott, Taylor, Atkin, Rees, Mullen (Fawcett 49 minutes), Johnson, Young (Clarke 52 minutes), Wightman (Godsmark 63 minutes), Deagle. Sub not used: Grieve.
n In midweek in their FA Cup replay, Ashington took a two-goal lead with Jamie Clarke converting penalties in the 19th and 51st minutes.
Wayne Gredziak quickly reduced the deficit then Chris Hughes equalised 13 minutes from full-time.
Ashington substitute Gareth Bainbridge hit the post with five minutes remaining before the striker was taken to nearby Wansbeck General Hospital with a dislocated shoulder.
The injury came in the first period of extra time and having used all three substitutes, the Colliers were forced to play the last 20 minutes with only ten men.
The tie went to penalties which the home side won 5-3. Liam Atkin, Andrew Johnson, Dean Deagle, Jamie Clarke and Mark O’Dea all netted with Shildon’s first penalty by Ian Watson hitting the bar.
Before the match, players, officials and supporters observed a minutes silence as a mark of respect to Les Dodds, a former committee member with Ashington CFC who died recently.
On Saturday, Ashington host Vauxhall Motors in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup (3pm).