PLAYERS, management and supporters of Ashington CFC clenched their fists and pointed them towards the skies after a famous and historic FA Carlsberg Vase victory in Buckinghamshire on Saturday.
Substitute Gareth Bainbridge’s goal ten minutes before the interval eventually proved to be the all important strike as the Colliers broke new ground by going into the last 16 of the competition for the first time.
Despite a swirling wind the Woodhorn Lane side adapted well and forced the first chance in the fourth minute when Andrew Johnson headed wide from a Damen Mullen corner.
The Colliers finally took a stranglehold on proceedings with two goals in an eight-minute spell.
The first arrived on 13 minutes when following a throw-in down the left by Craig Scott, Jonny Godsmark laid the ball off first time for Mark O’Dea who unleashed a right footer from inside the area which gave home stopper Josh McAdoo no chance.
Gary Middleton’s side stormed into a two-goal lead after forcing a corner on the right. Mullen floated over an inviting delivery to the far post and Gareth Rees towered above his marker before directing a header inside the post.
Godsmark, who had come through a late test, was forced to retire with a recurrence of a hamstring problem and was replaced by Gareth Bainbridge, and although the home side had rarely threatened, they nevertheless came back with avengence to not only reduce the deficit but to draw level.
On the half hour Darren Dykes, top goalscorer last term, hooked the ball in from six yards after a long throw-in from the right.
The game was all square in the 35th minute when Keith Williams sent over a precision corner from the right for Dean Buss who bulleted a header past Karl Dryden.
But Middleton’s outfit incredibly hit back within a minute to get their noses back in front.
After Mark O’Dea’s probing run had set up Johnson, whose venomous 25 yarder smacked against the bar, substitute Bainbridge fired home from a tight angle.
Only three minutes later Phill Bell went close to a fourth.
Johnson produced some terrific work after foraging down the right flank and when he crossed, Bell’s diving header had goal written all over it until the ball smacked against the bar and was cleared.
After an action packed first period, the second half was a scrappy affair.
For the third time in the game, Ashington hit the woodwork when an 80th minute free-kick by Mullen struck the bar, and minutes later a goalbound effort by O’Dea was blocked.
In the last minute of normal time, Dom Lawless directed an effort from the edge of the area which was destined for the bottom corner until Dryden took off to his left to palm around in brilliant fashion.
An equaliser at the death would have been rough justice on the Colliers – who fashioned an opportunity themselves in the closing seconds when Bell and Bainbridge combined but when the latter crossed into the area, O’Dea missed his connection and the chance went begging.
The final whistle prompted scenes of jubilation as the Ashington players and management applauded their magnificent army of supporters.
Ashington: Dryden, Grieve, Scott, Taylor, Atkin, Rees, Godsmark (Bainbridge 27 mins), O’Dea, Bell, Johnson, Mullen (Dugdale 84 mins). Subs not used: Deagle, Buzzeo.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to Newton Aycliffe (3pm).