THE champagne corks may have been popping to welcome the New Year a little over 24 hours earlier, but Monday’s game at Woodhorn Lane lacked sparkle.
Yet Ashington clinched all three points with a 3-1 win over Norton & Stockton Ancients to go seventh.
The Colliers – assisted by new forward Marc Walton – were in front after only 52 seconds.
Walton, signed from Consett, made an early impression as he took a quick throw-in to Phill Bell down the left and when the former Whitley Bay man stroked the ball invitingly into the penalty area, the on-rushing Andrew Johnson did not have to break stride before burying a right footed drive from 12 yards wide of keeper Stuart Newbold to record his 12th of the campaign.
It was the perfect start for the Wansbeck side who looked to add a second with Walton instrumental.
He back heeled the ball to Tommy English whose cross was met by Bell but his first time effort was directed straight into Newbold’s midriff.
Then following a corner on the right by English, Craig Scott glanced on to Walton who found Bell but the striker stabbed wide of the right hand post.
Norton’s first threat came when Craig Gott crossed for James Magowan who glanced wide then a free-kick by Gott was held at the second attempt by Karl Dryden.
Seconds later, Johnson had a great chance to widen the gap. Bell played the ball through but Johnson who was clean through, applied too heavy a touch.
Four minutes before the break, Norton, who had come into the game, equalised from a set-piece after a foul by Andrew Dugdale.
Nathan Mulligan lined up the kick from 20 yards and curled a superb right footed effort which gave Dryden no chance as it bulged the top corner of the net.
And the Teesiders could easily have gone in front on the stroke of the interval when Theodore Furness latched onto a through ball but his shot was brilliantly pushed away by Dryden.
Ashington were forced into a change for the start of the second period with Mark O’Dea replacing the injured Dugdale.
In the 74th minute, Walton marked his debut with a cracking goal.
Johnson was the supplier of a ball knocked into the area for Walton who was allowed acres of space to turn before drilling home right footed from 12 yards.
The visitors replied almost immediately and it took a great tackle inside the area by Scott to halt substitute John Alexander.
A free kick from the left by Johnson eluded everyone to flash wide, then Bell failed to apply the final touch following a corner from Damen Mullen.
However, in injury time Bell was not to be denied as he notched his tenth goal since his return from Whitley Bay.
Mullen’s pass released Bell in the inside right position and the forward coolly lobbed over the advancing Newbold and into the net.
Ashington: Dryden, Buzzeo, Scott, J Taylor, Atkin, Deagle, Dugdale (O’Dea 46 mins), Bell, English (Godsmark 67 mins), Walton (Mullen 78 mins), Johnson. Subs not used: Bainbridge, Morris.
On Saturday Ashington are at home to Tow Law, kick-off 3pm.