Ashington 1-4 Morpeth Town
Morpeth Town’s Jordan Fry delivered a knock out punch on Boxing Day which sent Ashington spiralling to the canvas and at the same time, ensured that his side remain clear at the top of the Ebac Northern League’s first division following a 4-1 victory over the Colliers at Woodhorn Lane.
Fry notched a first half hat-trick and Joe Walton also got on the score sheet in the opening period as the Highwaymen took a stranglehold on proceedings to effectively have the game wrapped up by half time. Ashington – who went into the clash unbeaten in four matches - gave a spirited second half showing and reduced the arrears when Tony Stephenson tucked away a penalty but the damage had been done earlier in the contest.
Kyle Downey was a late withdrawal from the Ashington side through injury with player/manager Steve Bowey slotting in to make his full home debut. Before proceedings got under way, players, officials and supporters observed an impeccable minutes silence in memory of former Ashington and Morpeth manager Tom ‘Chick’ Charlton who sadly passed away last week.
The Colliers made a positive start and in the third minute, a corner on the right from Bowey was flicked goalwards by Wayne Buchanan and blocked on the line. Play switched immediately and when the ball was played in, it was Buchanan who cleared in the nick of time.
Home ‘keeper Conor Grant held a shot from Ben Sayer then Joe Walton’s lob landed on the top of the netting before Morpeth took the lead in the 12th minute. Grant did well to parry a shot by Sean Taylor but the rebound fell straight into the path of Fry who had the simple task of side footing home. And it was Taylor who was heavily involved ten minutes later as the Craik Park outfit doubled their lead.
Taylor crossed from the left and Grant was left flat footed as Walton’s header crept inside the post. Sixty seconds later, only a stupendous save from Grant prevented a third. Keith Graydon sprayed a superb 60 yards pass from the right which found Taylor and when he centred, Liam Henderson’s header was goalbound until Grant intervened to push the ball onto the top of the bar.
However, on the half hour, ex Colliers ‘keeper Karl Dryden was called into action pushing out a 20 yards restart from Dale Pearson, Back came Morpeth with a goal kick by Dryden being glanced on by Henderson to Fry who set up an opportunity for Sayer which he placed over the bar. Two identical goals inside as many minutes then completely knocked the stuffing out of the home side. Both stemmed from right sided free kicks taken by Sayer and met by Fry who buried headers into the far corner, the second to complete his hat-trick.
The first part of the second period was flat until midway through when a 25 yarder from Graydon was tipped over by Grant then an effort by Pearson was fisted out by Dryden with the follow up from Luke Salmon deflected for a corner. Taylor was not far away with a free-kick for Morpeth before the Colliers pulled one back in the 73rd minute. Pearson made strides into the area until he was sent tumbling by Wayne Phillips. Referee Stephen Dial – who had an excellent match - pointed the spot and Stephenson stepped up to send Dryden the wrong way.
Three minutes later, Pearson and Stephenson combined to set up a chance for Salmon but the midfielder took an extra touch and was thwarted by a brilliant last ditch tackle by Danny Carson. A grand finale saw Walton round Grant but his shot from an acute angle was cleared off the line by Buchanan then another effort from the Morpeth man saw Stephenson block inside the danger area. In stoppage time,
Dryden foiled substitute Dylan Williamson and Salmon failed to connect with a header after an in-swinging cross from the right by fellow sub Lee Scott.
*On Saturday, Ashington are away to Ryhope CW (3pm).
Ashington: Grant, McAndrew, Hornsby, Henderson, Christensen, Buchanan, Pearson, Bowey (Williamson 81 minutes), Stevens (L Scott 54 minutes), Stephenson, Salmon. Subs not used: Downey, Carr, C Scott.
Morpeth Town: Dryden, Forster, Phillips, Sayer, Danny Carson, Reid, Taylor (Elliott 72 minutes), Graydon, Fry (David Carson 59 minutes), Henderson (Davison 46 minutes), Walton. Subs not used: Turner, Morecroft.