Tony Stephenson came off the bench and scored a dramatic last gasp winner to seal victory for Ashington in a five goal thriller against Bishop Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Friday night.
The Colliers were the better side in the first period and led 2-0 with goals from Luke Salmon and Damien Stevens. However, in the proverbial game of two halves, Bishops completely dominated proceedings from the first whistle following the break and after Preistley Griffiths had halved the deficit, Thomas McAloon levelled with a stunning strike with only seven minutes of normal time remaining before Stephenson had the final say.
Ashington went into the game having won three of their last four matches whilst a rejuvenated Bishops outfit had tasted three victories on the trot.
And it was the hosts who were quickly out of the traps with pace a major factor as they opened up the visitors and dominated the opening 25 minutes.
Salmon volleyed over in the third minute then Bishops ‘keeper Gareth Young saved well at the foot of the post from Stevens following a corner on the left by Lee McAndrew. Salmon carved out the next opportunity when he pulled the ball back but Stevens tried to place a side footed effort and directed it well wide of the mark.
However, on the quarter hour, Ashington went ahead with Salmon notching his third goal in two games. He latched swiftly onto a superb through ball from Tom White, took a touch then rifled wide of Young.
Four minutes later, only an offside flag against McAndrew who laid the ball off, denied the Colliers a second with Stevens finding the net following an excellently constructed and incisive move.
Ten minutes before the interval, Stevens was on target again – and on this occasion the goal stood. A diagonal cross from McAndrew was intercepted by the head of ex Collier Michael Tait but the ball fell into the path of Stevens who gobbled up the opportunity, side footing wide of Young.
Ashington deservedly led at the interval – but from the first whistle after the break, they were bombarded for long spells by a Bishops outfit who grew even more in confidence after pulling a goal back within two minutes. Grant made a brilliant save to deny Niall McGoldrick but Griffiths pounced to ram home the rebound.
The visitors pinned Ashington in their own half with Grant forced to fist out an effort by Aidan Hart and it was midway through before the Colliers created their first effort with Young holding onto an effort from White. Ashington - forced to man the pumps – defended well and after Grant had pushed away a shot from Andrew Johnson, the clearance was completed by Wayne Buchanan.
The game had been an open affair with both sides fully committed to attack – and there was to be a grand finale. In the 82nd, Salmon and substitute Dylan Williamson combined to set up a glorious opportunity for Stephenson but with only Young to beat, his effort was straight at the ‘keeper.
Incredibly 45 seconds later, Grant was picking the ball out of the net after a stupendous leveller from McAloon whose left footer from the edge of the area, screamed past the home stopper and into the corner of the net.
However there was one final twist in the last minute of the 90 as sub David Edwards slotted the ball through for Stephenson who made no mistake firing wide of Young for the winner.
*Ashington now prepare for a busy festive period where they are scheduled to play three games in six days starting with away trips to face Newcastle Benfield on Thursday (December 21) and Penrith (December 23) before they host neighbours and league leaders Morpeth Town on Boxing Day (noon kick off).