Ex-England cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff helped prepare Ashington for their pre-season fixture against Preston at Woodhorn Lane.
The former Ashes winning all rounder, a close friend of Colliers boss Steve Harmison, joined in the home team’s pre-game preparations.
And Harmison was full of praise after the game, which his side lost 1-0 to a second half strike from Jack Ryan.
“Everyone knows how close I am to Freddie,” he said.
“He joined in with the warm-up and I think he gave my lads a little bit of a spring in their step with some light hearted banter which filtered down to the lads and allowed them to take their minds off the fact that they were going to be playing against a full-time club.
“I thought they really went out and expressed themselves, although both teams were excellent.
“Preston’s possession of the ball was good and they are not used to non league pitches – they are more used to playing on a flat surface.
“But my thanks goes out to Graham Chambers at Longhirst Golf Club because this pitch at Woodhorn Lane is in as good a playing condition as I have ever seen.
“We tried to play some nice football and it was a good game, although tiredness crept in at the end.
“However, I was very, very pleased with our decision making and we kept the ball when we had too, although there are times when you are going to relinquish it.
“Discipline wise we held our positions and I was really happy with the effort the lads put in.
“On that score, I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that in friendlies.
“The work rate we showed and the way the lads strived to help each other out was terrific.”
In front of a near 500 crowd, the Colliers were thwarted on the night by an excellent goalkeeping performance by Steven James.
And in the end it was Ryan’s 62nd minute strike which settled an entertaining contest.
Harmison also praised the Championship side to the north east for the fixture.
“I’d also like to thank Preston boss Simon Grayson for sending the team who were managed by academy boss Nick Harrison and assistant Andy Fensome.
“I thought they were first class; their players were exemplary and represented their club fantastically well.
“We looked after them well, and all in all it was a great exercise.
“It was a long way for Preston to come but hopefully they got something out of the game, and although we got beat 1-0, by and large I know we took a lot out of it with players getting better, fitter and stronger.
“We are not bothered about results at this stage. It’s about performances and getting ready for the start of the league programme, but we are slowly and surely getting there.
“If this had been a league fixture, I don’t think we would have lost tonight.
“Preston had a couple of chances but professional outfits may only get one or two opportunities and score a goal.
“We probably created more chances but they had a lot more possession. Overall, it was a great exercise and workout for us.
“I thought the back four were excellent and although we still have a little bit of a way to go until Saturday week when the curtain goes up against Washington, it’s onwards and upwards in my opinion.”