WHAT an inspired signing Jamie Clarke is proving to be.
The Teeside-based striker grabbed his third brace in only four matches on Saturday as Ashington staged a magnificent recovery to earn a well deserved replay and go into the hat for the next round of the FA Cup after this second qualifying round match ended all square at Woodhorn Lane.
Everyone connected with the game will be hoping home skipper Darren Lough makes a quick recovery after being taken to Wansbeck General Hospital with a head injury sustained in an accidental clash during the first half.
Meanwhile, the Colliers appeared to be heading for the exit door after being 3-1 behind with 20 minutes to go against their Blue Square Bet North opponents.
Manager Gary Middleton had just changed the formation and made a double substitution, throwing Stephen Young and Damen Mullen into the fray.
But 60 seconds later his plans appeared to be shattered as Motors striker Leighton McGivern extended his side’s lead to 3-1.
Cue a terrific comeback, and after Young had netted Ashington’s second, Clarke sent the home fans into raptures with an equaliser in the fourth minute of added time.
Initially, the game had started well for Middleton’s side, who broke the deadlock in the seventh minute.
Andrew Johnson’s free-kick from 25 yards was pushed away by keeper Scott Tynan, but only as far as Lough, who crossed from the left to the far side where Clarke headed home.
However, Ashington were caught out as Vauxhall reversed the lead with two goals in a minute on the quarter hour mark.
They forced a corner on the right and from Sean Williams’ kick, keeper Karl Dryden allowed Craig Mahon’s header to slip through his hands and into the net.
Only 30 seconds later a mistake by Gareth Rees saw Josh Wilson’s header come back off the post with the ball falling back nicely for the striker to score from the rebound with ease.
Three minutes later the Colliers ought to have levelled when Liam Atkin found Clarke on the left and when he crossed, Jonny Godsmark had a clear opening from six yards but saw his effort blocked by the keeper.
Then came the unfortunate incident where Lough and Motors’ Andy Taylor challenged for a header with the Ashington skipper taken to hospital.
Play had been suspended for quarter of an hour.
In the second period, Dryden denied McGivern on two occasions before Vauxhall scored a third following an error from Mark O’Dea.
O’Dea lost possession and McGivern lashed the ball home between Dryden and the post from 18 yards.
However, Ashington were far from finished and within three minutes, a cross from substitute Dean Deagle was glanced on by Atkin for Young to blast home at the far post.
In the closing stages, Young had an acrobatic shot blocked with Clarke lifting a scissors kick effort over, then Dryden saved at point blank range from Mahon.
The save proved crucial as with only 30 seconds remaining, Atkin – pushed forward – won a tackle and found Young on the right.
Young crossed to the far post where Clarke squeezed a magnificent header just inside the angle of post and crossbar.
The sides were due to replay last night (Wednesday) with the winners playing Blue Square Bet North side Guiseley in the third qualifying round.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Lough (Deagle 30 minutes), Rees (Young 70 minutes), Atkin, Scott, Johnson, O’Dea, Clarke, Godsmark, Dugdale (Mullen 70 minutes). Subs not used: Graham, Grieve, Wightman.
On Saturday, Ashington are at home to Jarrow Roofing then host Bishop Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday, October 11.