Kyle Downey scored his first hat-trick for Ashington against Chester-le-Street at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday to steer the Colliers to their first league victory for a month.
The midfielder struck twice in quick succession during the first half then completed his treble with a penalty in the second period.
The scoreline suggests a five-goal thriller, and that’s exactly what this game was, with the home side desperately hanging on at the end.
The Cestrians, who occupy bottom place in the first division table, belied their position and in a rip roaring finale should have got back on level terms but missed clear cut chances.
The second 45 minutes was pulsating with the game switching from end to end before the home side were forced to play the final ten minutes with only ten men after Ben Harmison had received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
Ashington’s performance in the 2-1 defeat by Penrith in midweek had been below par, but on Saturday, Steve Harmison’s side ought to have to taken the lead in only the third minute.
Downey chased down a back-pass and when the ball fell to Andrew Bulford, he rolled it across for Lee McAndrew, who only had keeper Jack Wilson to beat but his first touch took him wide and his shot was blocked by the stopper.
The visitors went in front in the 12th minute with a move started and finished by Alex White.
He played the ball through to Dominic Laws whose effort was parried by home keeper Conor Grant with White gobbling up the rebound from close range.
Howeve,r a Downey-inspired Ashington hit back in terrific fashion with two almost identical goals inside three minutes.
The equaliser came midway through the half. Ben Sampson won a header in midfield to find Ben Harmison and when he in turn slotted through for Downey, the midfielder cut inside before firing a low shot which went under the body of Wilson.
Downey’s second was a stunning strike. Ryan Bell, recalled to the starting line-up for the injured Shaun Henderson, played a one-two with Bulford then passed to Downey. The number eight again weaved inside then unleashed a sizzling left footer from 14 yards which flew past Wilson and into the corner of the net.
Confidence had returned to Ashington’s play, but they were given a jolt in the 33rd minute as Chester levelled.
The ball was floated into the Ashington area from a restart whereupon referee Chris Ellis pointed for a penalty, a decision which left players from both sides as well as spectators mystified. Craig Marron sent Grant the wrong way from the spot.
Later it emerged that the award had been given against Wayne Buchanan for holding an opponent.
As half-time approached, White fired over for the visitors then an effort from 22 yards by Ben Harmison was held by Wilson and a long range free kick by Downey went just over.
What proved to be the winning goal arrived nine minutes into the second half and came following an incisive passage of play by the Colliers.
Bell and Paul Antony worked a one-two before the former was challenged near the by line. The referee once again blew for a spot kick and Downey scored to complete his hat-trick finding the corner as Wilson dived in the opposite direction.
Before play restarted, Chester substitute Jack Honour, who was warming up behind the assistant referee, spoke out of turn and was duly red carded.
Calum Johnston lobbed just over then Bulford netted from a Sampson cross, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside.
Central defenders Buchanan and James Harmison both made timely blocks to in separate incidents to thwart Michael Hepplewhite, then when play switched, Wilson foiled another Downey effort with the ball bouncing off Sampson and going straight into the keeper’s arms.
Downey continued to be a threat down the right and after another run down the flank, his effort was touched away by Wilson.
The action was frenetic and after Harmison had seen red, a free kick from 25 yards by Marron struck the far post and rolled to safety.
Incredibly, during five minutes of stoppage time, Andrew Grant-Soulsby somehow skied over from almost on the line following a cross by Laws before the latter sliced wide.
Then the Colliers breathed a huge sigh of relief when the visitors had an effort disallowed for offside with the last kick of the game.
On Wednesday Ashington make the short journey to the Daren Persson Stadium to face league leaders North Shields, kick-off 7.30pm, then on Saturday they travel across to Cumbria for an early return fixture against Penrith, kick-off 3pm.
In last week’s contest at Woodhorn Lane, Andrew Bulford gave the Wansbeck side the lead before two goals from Martyn Coleman saw the visitors take all three points.
Ashington: Grant, R Bell, Tiffoney (Christensen 69), Antony, J Harmison, Buchanan, Sampson, Downey, Bulford (Dormand 85), B Harmison, McAndrew (Canham 75). Subs not used: O’Reilly, Hall.