THE tie of the round produced the shock of the day and with it the result of the round.
Not many observers other than believers in Wansbeck thought Ashington had any realistic chance of making progress in this season’s FA Carlsberg Vase when they were drawn away to Spennymoor, STL Northern League champions for the past two seasons.
But two early Christmas crackers arrived at The Brewery Field in the shape of two outstanding goals from Andrew Johnson and Jonny Godsmark – the former at the beginning of the second half, the latter ten minutes from full-time.
The goals booked Ashington a deserved place in the last 32 of the competition.
And it was the first home defeat of the season for the Moors.
Ashington boss Gary Middleton and his assistant Neil Winskill as always had done their homework – the latter having taken in the Moors’ clash against Newton Aycliffe the week previous – and they got their tactics spot on.
However, the management team were dealt a double blow only 24 hours before kick-off when midfielders Mark O’Dea and Damen Mullen were both ruled out after picking up injuries during the Sage Northumberland Senior Cup defeat to Newcastle United Reserves on Tuesday.
In came Andrew Dugdale along with Gareth Bainbridge, who has only had three cameo appearances as a substitute since recovering from a dislocated shoulder, for his first start since mid September.
The home side enjoyed large chunks of possession during the first period with Gavin Cogden driving wide, Daniel Moore’s header clutched by Karl Dryden and Leon Ryan trying his luck from 35 yards which went wide of the post.
Then came Spennymoor’s two first half shouts for a spot kick as firstly in the 13th minute Cogden went down under challenge from Gareth Rees then three minutes later Moore went to ground as Dryden went in search of the ball after he had fumbled a cross from the right.
Sandwiched in between, Phill Bell, Johnson and Bainbridge combined with Ashington’s first meaningful chance which ended with Bainbridge’s shot on the turn being directed straight into keeper Craig Turns’ midriff.
Cogden netted on the half hour but the score was ruled out for offside, then shortly before the interval Ashington’s best chance arrived.
Johnson found Paul Buzzeo and from his first time delivery from the right, Bainbridge’s header was held low down by Turns.
The second half started with a bang as Ashington broke the deadlock in the 51st minute.
Johnson, fouled by Harwood, lined up the free kick just left of centre and from 25 yards curled a delightful right footed effort over the wall and into the top corner, giving the home stopper no chance.
Spennymoor responded and again had good possession, but apart from a header by Ryan which was held by Dryden, they distinctly lacked efforts to work the visiting goalkeeper.
Instead, with the Colliers looking dangerous on the break, a cross by Godsmark to Bell saw the centre forward smothered out before Bainbridge’s effort clipped the bar and from the rebound.
Then Johnson’s header struck Michael Laws on the line and was cleared.
However, in the 81st minute a goal of the highest order by Godsmark effectively put the seal on the game.
Bainbridge supplied the pass to the diminutive winger turned striker who picked it up ten yards inside his own half and after advancing, outstripped Laws for pace which put him clean through. Still making a beeline for goal, Godsmark then side stepped the advancing Turns on the right of the area and although driven slightly wide, side-footed into an empty net from a tight angle.
Either goal would have been worthy of winning any game.
Before the game a minute’s applause reverberated around the ground in tribute to Wales boss and former Newcastle United player Gary Speed, who died the previous Sunday.
Ashington: Dryden, Buzzeo, Scott, Taylor, Atkin, Rees, Johnson, Dugdale, Bell, Godsmark (Grieve 87 mins), Bainbridge. Subs not used: Deagle, Hogg.
On Saturday Ashington take on Whitley Bay in the STL Northern League at Woodhorn Lane, kick-off 3pm.